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I’ve Got a Time Bomb is a trans punk road novel that is not for the faint of heart. It is not for the politically or grammatically correct. It is not a respectable trans book and that is a good thing. Too many books written by and about trans people seek to normalize trans lives, and are careful not to offend people within and outside of the community. Be forewarned, Lamb writes without inhibition, no matter how ugly or violent her truth is.
Lamb drew upon content from over a decade’s worth of her zines to create the underground world in I’ve Got a Time Bomb. The novel follows the main character Sybil across the country from places like “Filthydelphia” to “Salt Plain City” in search of drugs, sex, love, home, and shelter. Each chapter is accompanied by Lamb’s artwork, which depicts the many misfit characters Sybil meets along the way, including “LA-based performance artist” Monday Mourning, who drives a book-burning ice cream truck and is obsessed with using her portable tape recorder.
I’ve Got a Time Bomb is not a light read. Much of the book deals with the after-effects of Lamb’s real-life traumatic brain injury. While walking in a train yard, two men approached Sybil:
They asked her if the reason she was all fucked up was cuz she was a faggot, and Syb pointed out that they were obviously the faggoty ones. One picked up a 38 inch iron pipe and smashed her collarbone, driving fragments into her left rotator. He smashed a few dents in her scapula as she involuntarily curled in fetal position. She flopped about and tried to sit up and call them faggots again.
Even in the face of life-threatening violence, Sybil still talks back to the men bashing her in the head and she survives. Sybil would never go down without a fight. I’ve Got a Time Bomb is a novel about survival, including how to survive the every day realities of being a trans woman. While offering advice to a younger friend and lover named Maybe, Sybil says, “May-be…you ARE trans. It’s how you were born and you’re stuck like this. The most you could do is fix it as good as you can and then bury it fucking deep, and it would still be there in your past and part of you. It’s for life. Know what tho? I know one thing from being older than you…the hurt changes.”
The hurt changes. Sybil continues, “Everything that hurts us prepares us to weather future hurts.” She emphasizes that the hurt is real, but it is also manageable. “Mixing painful humor, uncensored truth telling, and raw emotionality, I’ve Got a Time Bomb is an unconventional and daring novel full of resilience.
I’ve Got a Time Bomb
By Sybil Lamb
Paperback, 9781627290111, 350 pp.