BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker [in Shelf Awareness]

Just about everything is new for Zenobia: she’s moved to a new state (from Arizona to Maine) and is starting at a new middle school. She recently lost her widowed father, and is getting used to her new guardians, Aunt Lucy and her wife, Aunt Phil. She’s also got a new name … because Zenobia July is finally living as her very authentic self.

Designated male at birth, Zen has always known, “I really am just a girl … I’m me!” Her strictly religious father didn’t understand her, but the Aunties unconditionally embrace her. At school, despite being the new kid, Zen is welcomed at “Arli’s table of orphan misfits.” And she displays her techno-wizardry by first assisting a computer-challenged teacher and later by tracking down the egregious hacker of the school’s website. But when a new friend is outed as trans, the ripples through the small community could have devastating effects for Zen.

Author Lisa Bunker (Feliz Yz) is herself transgender – she’s one of two openly transgender women who were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in November 2018. While her #OwnVoices sophomore title is filled with humor, hope and plenty of joy, Bunker is also age-appropriately revealing about challenges confronting Zen – she’s “so Goddamnittohell tired” of facing bathrooms, bullying, physical changes, conservative intolerance, and a grandmother who considers her existence to be “contrary to God’s law.” But Zen also has two unfalteringly supportive aunties, a genderqueer best friend, and even a drag queen-fabulous fairy godmother. Zen’s realization that among such “welcoming hearts” she can “just be” proves to be an empowering lesson for all.

Discover: For 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.

Review: “Children’s & Young Adult,” Shelf Awareness, June 14, 2019

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2019


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