Transgender Pride, Literally: 11 Titles by #OwnVoices Authors and More [in The Booklist Reader]
Happy final Friday of Pride Month. Wow . . . that went by quickly! I have 25 (no lie!) more books on, under, next to, and all around my desk that I will not be covering here, which is actually a good thing, because that’s proof that twenty-first-century titles by and about the transgender and genderqueer community are indeed proliferating! By no means is this an exhaustive list – think of it as a recent starter kit. And how grateful are we readers – and especially younger readers in search of windows and mirrors – for the myriad trans, genderqueer, and related voices and experiences to be shared, appreciated, and celebrated?!
Titles are divided into two sections: books by #OwnVoices authors and books by and about the families, friends, and lovers of transgender and genderqueer people. Numerous titles included here are forthcoming (more, more, more!). And, please feel free to grow the list in the comments below.
By #OwnVoices Transgender and Genderqueer Authors
100 Crushes by Elisha Lim
Graphic artist/comics creator Lim offers five years of graphic work in a single, slim, wow-inducing volume that examines the essence of being fluid, label defying, label reclaiming, self-defining . . . and just being.
Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Transgender activist/professor/best-selling author Boylan (She’s Not There) presents a then/now murder mystery intriguingly narrated by a rather chimerical character, who, once a lonely lost soul, is now an adored wife, mother, and successful travel writer in small-town Maine.
OP: Original Plumbing: The Best of Trans Male Culture edited by Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos, with a foreword by Tiq Milan
A San Francisco zine turned national print publication, Original Plumbing is now 10 years young! Founders Mac and Kayiatos collect their “favorite moments from each issue,” compiled between striking fuschia covers, filled with so much color, life, and love. “Needless to say, there is not just one way to be a trans man.”
Trans Like Me: Conversations for All of Us by CN Lester
British musician and trans rights activist Lester affectingly uses personal life experiences of coming out and living an authentic life to illuminate wider issues of acceptance, understanding, and inclusion. Lester channels history to connect trans communities from past to present, while drawing on pop culture to underscore the immediacy of contemporary nonbinary identity.
For Younger Readers
Birthday by Meredith Russo (Grades 9–12)
Through life’s dramatic changes, Eric and Morgan have shared every birthday together. Morgan’s mother is dead, his father has shut down; meanwhile, Eric’s seemingly perfect family is imploding. At 13, Morgan desperately needs to tell Eric, “I want to be a girl.” Eric wants to know who Morgan really is – especially who Morgan is to him.
The Boy and the Bindi by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Rajini Perara (K–Grade 1)
A young boy curious about his mother’s bindi finally receives his own – which connects him with generations past, inspiring him to embark on a journey of empowered discovery. Indian Canadian musician/filmmaker/writer Shraya, a transgender woman, deftly explores difference and self-acceptance, the subversion of gender expectations, and the power of “making sure I don’t hide / Everything I am inside.”
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Grades 7–10, September)
Children in the town of Lucille are told there are no monsters. But there are monsters. And Jam – guided by Pet, who crawls out of her mother’s painting – will hunt and expose the monster lurking in her best friend’s home. Emezi (Freshwater) makes their younger reader debut with the inaugural title of Christopher Myers’ “Make Me a World” imprint. That Jam’s transgender identity is treated as a factual nonevent is a refreshing approach to character diversity.
Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman (Grades 8–11, September)
When Ghost Hawk makes her latest descent on a California-bound stagecoach, she kidnaps Grace, a Georgian trans woman escaping Confederate conscription. Delightful hijinks and adventures ensue. Gillman is an award-winning creator of “positive queer and trans comics for younger readers,” and her Wild West escapade is enhanced with intriguing glimpses into little-known transgender military history.
Trans Mission: My Quest to Grow a Beard by Alex Bertie (Grades 9–12)
YouTube star Bertie – who’s British and transgender – shares his coming out with unflinching honesty, raw vulnerability, sharp insight, and quite a bit of gentle humor. Unusual is the addition of a chapter from Bertie’s mother, who intimately shares her POV as the mother of a transgender son.
When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (K–Grade 1)
When Aidan, a transgender boy, learns he’s going to be a big brother, he helps his parents prepare for the newest addition to their family in the most welcoming ways. Lukoff reveals in his author’s note that parts of his own story are “very much like Aidan’s.” Lukoff and illustrator Juanita create “a world that supports and believes in [Aidan],” modeling a community that embraces “all different kinds of kids.”
Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker (Grades 5–8)
For spunky middle-schooler Zenobia July, a fresh start in a new home and new school with new friends means she’ll finally be able to live as her authentic self. Bunker herself is transgender; she’s one of two openly transgender women who were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in November 2018!
By and About Family Members, Friends, and Lovers
In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi
At 76, feminist writer Faludi’s (Backlash) father went to Thailand and returned to Hungary as Stefánie, all the while insisting she was “still [Faludi’s] father.” In trying to understand this new identity, Faludi examines her father’s history as a Holocaust survivor, American immigrant, husband, father, Hungarian returnee – and how her many reincarnations shaped the woman she became.
Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle and Acceptance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children edited by Rachel Pepper
Journalist/author/therapist Pepper “focus[es] on the emotional experience of mothers, highlighting the parallel process that parents go through along with their transitioning child” because “no one feels this change as acutely as mothers.” Pepper’s mothers are as diverse as their gender nonconforming, nonbinary children – who vary from age six to 60!
Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity by Arlene Stein
Award-winning, gay journalist Stein follows the remarkable journeys of four young people, who each had their top surgery done on the same day by the same Florida surgeon. Together, the diverse challenges, choices, and outcomes for these four individuals – three of them trans, one of them a gender-bending butch lesbian – create an inclusive collage of the vast spectrum of the contemporary transgender experience.
For Younger Readers
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher (Grades 9–12)
Winner of the first Stonewall Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature, Katcher’s novel follows the unlikely love story between Logan, still reeling from a breakup with his cheating first love, and Sage, a mysterious new girl with many secrets.
Beast by Brie Spangler (Grades 10–12)
Hirsute, comparatively behemoth Dylan might have sort-of-maybe fallen off his roof . . . on purpose. Required to attend therapy, he meets quirky, smart, enigmatic Jamie. Their initial antagonism soon turns to genuine friendship, then quickly moves towards more – but Dylan somehow missed something Jamie revealed to the whole group, so what’s gonna happen when he finds out?
Freeing Finch by Ginny Rorby (Grades 5–8, October)
At 12, Finch has had plenty of struggles. Her father left, her mother died, she lives with her stepfather, who, less than year after losing her mother, gave Finch a stepmother. Finch has always been a girl, but the parents she’s got left don’t seem to understand. Luckily, nearest neighbor Maddy – and her menagerie of rehabilitating wildlife – is exactly the support Finch needs to be her true self. Note to readers: get tissues ready – there couldn’t have been more tears!
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (K–Grade 1)
Across her stupendous watercolor, gouache, and ink spreads, Love captures the transformative power of being seen. With his grandmother’s unconditional affirmation, young Julían’s daydreams become spectacular reality in Broadway actor Love’s triumphant author/illustrator debut.
Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith (Grades 9–12)
Chris arrives to spend a summer with his aunt in rural North Carolina after surviving a brutal attack back home in Rochester. Maia, his nearest neighbor, is reeling from the sudden death of her older sister and caught between two grieving parents who still acrimoniously live together four years after their divorce. Chris and Maia’s initial almost bike-into-car crash reluctantly sparks a collision of emotions that will have them both falling into first love.