“They” by Janet Mason, reviewed by Vanda

They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders by Janet Mason, Published by Adelaide Books 2017,           300 pages.  IBSN 0-9995164-3-4

Reviewed by: Vanda, author of the Juliana Series

All the Bible stories from your childhood suddenly jump to life in Janet Mason’s new novel, They.  The manner in which they are presented I found to be a lot of fun.

The story is about a woman named Tamar who lives in ancient times, around the same time as Joseph who had that cool colorful coat, which by the way, never gets mentioned in They. Tamar and her family live in tents; she is obsessed by her camel, Aziza, who she keeps reminding everyone is not a camel, but a dromedary because she only has one hump.  Her friends and family don’t seem to care a fig about the difference, but it is very important to Tamar.  She and her dromedary have a special relationship that is as important to her as her relationships with her friends.  Aziza sleeps insides the tent with Tamar, something that later causes Tamar problems.

What I liked most about the book was that I was a part of the discovery.  I would be reading about Tamar and her family and friends and then suddenly one of them would mention a relative or acquaintance who lived in another land; gradually I would come to realize this person was a famous Biblical character, for instance Naomi and Ruth from “I go whither you goest,” fame.

As a young teenager I was in search of answers, so I read the Bible from cover to cover twice. l   don’t know that I found any answers, but I enjoyed the stories. I was able to connect to those ancient people. The stories in They are told in simple, everyday language; they do not sound Biblical. They sound human.

The main character, Tamar, takes us through the whole book. She even dies and lives for a while as a spirit.  She ends up in the womb again until the day she is born into a new life.

Gender is flexible in They.  Although the people are as hung up about gender as we are—I guess we probably got this way because of them—different genders and sexual orientations still emerge.  Tamar, in her first life, has a lesbian experience that she wants to continue, but the other woman can’t accept Tamar’s favorite dromedary sleeping in the tent with them.  Intersex twins make an appearance, but they end up living their lives as males because this was the preferred sex, like now.

They is a fun read that asks the big questions about who we are, where we come from and where we are going. It’s not necessary to know the Bible to understand this book. It just puts a different slant on those age-old Bible stories you might have heard a long time ago.

Vanda wrote her first novel in eighth grade, with encouragement from her teacher, Mr. James Evers, who said, “My children will read your words.” She went on to win awards: Edward Albee Fellowship Finalist for a National Lambda Literary Award.

Vanda is currently writing an LGBT modern history that is NOT only for LGBT folks. It goes from the 1940s to the present and is filled with fun fictional characters who keep showing up in each book in the series. An LGBT Harry Potter.

The latest in the JULIANA SERIES, Heaven is to Your Left (Book 4) will be released November 30, 2018.