... [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.
Encountering Faliveno...is a pleasure ... She is also a sensitive commentator on the topsy-turvy world of the gender systems she grew up in and an exquisite self-analyst of her own androgyny ... Readers of all kinds will wish to sit down with this tomboy, not just those interested in issues of androgyny. Recommended.