... [Faliveno] explores gender and identity with the honesty and complexity of a person who has thought a lot about how complicated people are, including and especially herself ... Faliveno’s deft writing of gender dynamics is as fluid as gender itself, making it a relief to read ... Among the tributaries of this theme of rural stoicism are candid examinations of gun culture, drinking culture, parenthood and grief. Tomboyland delves into the idea of violence in unexpected and fascinating ways, though the violence of Whiteness is mostly unexamined, which feels especially conspicuous considering her connection to formerly indigenous land ... The language of weaponry comes up again and again, jolting the reader into a framework that is usually the domain of the masculine. In this way, Faliveno not only refuses to shy away from the ways in which violent language permeates our discourse, but subverts its gendered associations ... The theme of violence intertwined with fear, love and reverence for place and created family propels Tomboyland into captivating territory. On the surface, its beautiful prose belies the darker complexities it scrapes at, making it all the more gratifying to read.
She complicates and nuances this narrative [about conservative Midwesterners] in Tomboyland, whose essays are a love letter to, reckoning with, and examination of her midwestern upbringing ...Throughout her essays, Faliveno is constantly straddling just such blurry lines, never willing to let any of her topics lie comfortably still, always turning them over to look at another facet ... Faliveno doesn't always definitively answer the questions she asks—and after all, how could she, when existential issues of identity, belonging, language, and the body are rarely if ever static static—but she does manage to get satisfyingly close her essays in emotional or narrative catharsis.
I immediately saw myself in Faliveno’s debut essay collection ... The effect is like tumbling freely into thought, or settling in for a deep and vibrant conversation with someone kind of like you but also very different ... In clear, crisp language, Faliveno describes not feeling comfortable with any of the typical labels and explores the meanings of the words she tries on herself ... As Faliveno plumbs her emotions and seeks to understand herself in the context of these labels and other people’s opinions on them, she never breaks from her deep understanding of humanity, flaws and all ... Tomboyland is both a pleasure and a challenge, and Faliveno’s openness and charisma deepens on every page. Seeing yourself in literature is a beautiful, meaningful experience for every reader. But while good books can allow readers to see themselves, they can also show us something different, something we hadn’t considered, something true—whether we identify with it or not. This is Tomboyland’s most important accomplishment.