Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cybils books about Trans* people

Leelah Alcorn was a trans* teen who commited suicide this weekend. Her parents wouldn't accept her, her friends, either. She was alone with no support, and she killed herself. Her mother then posted on Facebook about how her son had been hit by a truck, implying it was a horrific accident. There is a beautiful hashtag right now, #RealLiveTransAdult to let trans* teens know that there is hope.

Four books about trans* people were nominated in the Cybils YA Nonfiction category this year. 4. That's tied with perennial favorite subjects of the Civil Rights Movement and WWII. I've read them and had reviews written on each of them, picking apart their merits and weaknesses, judging how they may or may not be award worthy. Some obviously compare against others, pitting themselves against each other in my judge-y reader's brain.

You know what? In light of this? Fuck that. I just can't pick them apart when the importance that they even exist is so painfully obvious today. None of them have fundamental flaws, they are all worthy of recommendation, and here they are:

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition Katie Rain Hill. A college student when she wrote this, Katie tells her story of growing up in a body that didn't feel right--the body of a boy. She tells of her depression and pain and the sheer relief of discovering that transgender was a thing--there was a word for what she was and she wasn't alone. She details the process of coming out and transitioning, the support of her mother and the bullying at school, her advocacy work in Oklahoma, and starting college. A wonderful memoir.

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen Arin Andrews. A high school senior, this is also a memoir of a trans* teen, detailing his life growing up, his depression and his problems at his very conservative Christian school, as well as coming out and transitioning. There is also the real heartbreak of falling in love and a painful breakup after his girlfriend goes to college. This one has a little more medical information than Rethinking Normal

I would read these two as a set, as Arin and Katie are both from the Tulsa area and had some very similar, and some very different experiences. They also used to date and their relationship (and messy breakup) is well-documented in both books so they can be a sort of he said/she said set. Having two (sometimes drastically different) takes on the relationship (including different versions of events and conversations) might be a very successful way to hand sell the set to teens who might not be otherwise interested in reading a trans* memoir.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out Susan Kuklin. Kuklin interviewed several trans* teens for her book, editing their conversations down to a narrative in the teen's own voice. In the range of interviews and photographs, Kuklin captures a wide-range of trans* experiences and showcases the diversity within the trans* community. (Also, it's just a plain gorgeous book. I'm usually all about a smaller trim size for YA nonfiction, but yes, this is a book that can justify being larger.)

Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Much like Beyond Magenta, this book focuses on several trans* narratives (although not exclusively young people) and the personal stories of trans* people. Interspersed are chapters to offer background and context--challenges faced by trans* people (covering topics such as legal, health, and social), trans* people in history, introduction to trans* issues, how trans* people and issues are viewed in different cultures, and more. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the cover is a shiny silver, making it a fuzzy mirror.

Books Provided by... my local library, with the exception of Transgender Lives, which was given to me at a publisher dinner with the author at ALA.

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