'So kitten is about this girl named Rosemary and I’m in love with her': Launching kitten by Olive Nuttall

'So kitten is about this girl named Rosemary and I’m in love with her': Launching kitten by Olive Nuttall

Posted by Ashleigh Young on 11th Mar 2024

On Tuesday 20 February we launched the highly anticipated novel kitten by Olive Nuttall at Unity Books Wellington. Always Becominging was there to launch it for us – thank you, Always, and thank you everyone who came along to celebrate. Here's what Always had to say about kitten.

It’s hard for me to talk about this book except in superlatives. It’s hard for me to talk about it except in expletives. I just want to say it’s the fucking best thing I’ve read and push it into your hands. I just can’t wait for you all to read it, so you’ll know what a fucking genius this bitch is. 

So kitten is about this girl named Rosemary and I’m in love with her. You start reading this book and by the time you hit the second page you’re wondering, “Who is this bitch?!” We literally just met and she’s already telling me about daddies with beards jerking off to her and comparing fucking trans girls to incest. This is someone I want to keep hanging out with. And then you keep hanging out with her and in the next three pages she references Torrey Peters, Orville Peck, Brokeback Mountain, and Lou Sullivan, and you’re like, “Oh this is some queer shit, she is signalling HARD that this is a book for me huh.” And then she hits you with the combination sex scene/trauma flashback and from there I couldn’t help but be ride or die for this girl. And that’s just the first half of the first chapter.

Rosemary is such an icon. I would read about her doing anything. She has the most charming audacity. She lives her life with this ferocity that the novel matches. Her voice is propulsive. Even in moments of stillness, where nothing much is happening around her, Rosemary fills the space with internal drama, offering us no break from the building tension. Her mind never stops going. The stakes are always high because that’s what it’s like to be a trans girl. You walk down the street and you feel people’s eyes on you and you don’t know if it means you’re in danger or if you’re just hot shit.

Rosemary is constantly vigilant of how people perceive her. She’s always aware of the context of her body. She analyses how every person she encounters reacts to her. She knows how she must look during her walk of shame. She’s grateful that she never outgrew her dad. She notices the tiny falter in her aunt’s smile when she sees Rosemary, the hesitation when she says Rosemary’s name. When she hugs people, she wonders if they can feel her little estro-tits.

Through it all, Rosemary tries so hard to do what she thinks she’s supposed to do. She tries so hard to be a good girl. There is so much she is unsure of – she spends the span of the book riding a very thin line between being in and out of control – but she is always certain of who she is and I adore that about her.

Rosemary is the star of the show, but I have love for so many of the characters in kitten. The love and care and small acts of heroism they offer Rosemary swell my heart. From the woman at the Chinese takeaways calling her 'dear', Aunt Linda calling her 'sweetpea', Hannah giving her hand-me-down clothes, John holding doors open for her, Fi telling her to be the woman she wants to be, and Thorn just being an absolute fucking hero. Rosemary is so lucky to have the people around her that she does.

A lot of cis people will read this book and think it’s brave, they’ll think it’s sad; and yeah, there’s a lot of heavy stuff in there, but when I read kitten I’m filled with hope and joy and euphoria. When I think of kitten, I think of Rosemary on her knees in a hospital bathroom video chatting the hottie she just matched with on Tinder. I think of how excited she is to see her sister, when she arrives in Kirikiriroa. I think of her going into a bakery and buying a steak and cheese pie while wearing a cum-stained top. I think of how much pleasure she gets from eating that butter chicken. I think of all the goo.

Kitten does what all the best books do for me: it teaches me how to live. I’ve read it SEVERAL times now, and each time it helps me deal with myself and the world around me. It meets me where I am and nudges me in the right direction. Like at the end of last year, I was having some bad gender times, the dysphoria was stronk, so I reread kitten and it was like oh yeah, this is a girl like me, if she can do it that means that I can do it too. And this book is going to do that same thing for so many other trans girls. I remember reading Nevada and Detransition Baby right after one another a few years ago and thinking, fuck I wish I’d had these books earlier, they would have helped me figure my shit out so much more quickly. Kitten fits right into that trans canon. It will help girls figure their shit out. It’s the equivalent of a trans girl clocking you at a party and telling you her life story, giving you an example of what life could be like. It’s a book I show people when I want them to understand me better. It hasn’t even been out two weeks yet but already trans girls are spreading the word about how much they relate to it, how seen by it they feel. I honestly believe this book is going to save people’s lives.

I’ve read kitten so many times and it still makes me cry. I was reading it again to prepare for this speech and I started off diligently taking notes, but by the time I got a third of the way in I was too caught up in the flow to record anything, and when I reached the close, the tears were streaming. I’ve been trying not to give spoilers, but I will say that kitten has a happy ending in more ways than one. It makes me so joyous that this book exists. It’s perfect to me. I’m so proud of you Olive. You did it.

kitten (paperback, $30) is available now – from all good bookshops and from our website.