i was excited to pick up a teen novel starring a trans protagonist and, in particular, being a music-obsessed former radio dj, a novel whose conceit wi was excited to pick up a teen novel starring a trans protagonist and, in particular, being a music-obsessed former radio dj, a novel whose conceit was a community radio show that allowed this young man to freely express and experience his Gabe-ness in the relative anonymity of the airwaves while he eased into fully embodying his true self in the more vulnerable worlds of family, friendship, and public life as a teen preparing to graduate from high school--where he was expected to perform and respond as a "she." Unfortunately, as important as it is to tell coming-of-age trans people's stories, after reading Janet Mock's fiercely honest coming-of-age memoir a couple weeks ago, the lack of authenticity in this narrative is too glaring for me to appreciate, even in a work of fiction. although "researched" and generally sensitive in its language and understanding of trans issues, this was not written by someone who self-identifies as trans and that was pretty apparent. Overall, there was a sort of superficiality and lack of nuance in the ways Gabe was received as he opened up about his true self. to me, it was either too easy breezy to be believable--making so much light of his trans identity as to trivialize its import and the value that who he is matters (responses like "cool, you're a triangle" or "doesn't matter to me what you call yourself"--while cast as "accepting" were as dismissive as the parents who refused to call him by his chosen name) then there were reactions to Gabe as an object either of contempt and ridicule or sexual exoticism and fascination. since stats on anti-trans violence show this is a legitimate experience, i am glad it is addressed, but disappointed in the caricatures of each of the reactions that substitute for real depth of writing about his relationships and the people in his social and intimate worlds. it'd be nice if he had at least one genuine and authentic relationship...perhaps the closest to that was Paige, his long-time best friend, but when her staunch advocacy suddenly turns into disappearance and discomfort this felt like 2 extremes that were too easily resolved in a 5 minute make-up convo. basically, all the interpersonal felt oversimplified, and the pacing of the novel was erratic. but the WORST part of the book was that this kid is supposed to be an awesome dj working under the tutelage of his mentor-neighbor, a local dj great whose tastes, like his mentee, are abysmally mediocre, bland, and, sadly, whitewashed. Elvis is somehow held up as the paragon of creative genius...no mention of Chuck Berry and all of the R&B from which his sound derived. hagiography to Elvis and the Beatles makes this book seem super out of touch with musical reality/history. also, it just wasn't believable that his unthrilling dj sets would inspire a Facebook following and that whole fan club thing was super cheesy...radio is still relevant, for sure, but the way it read here felt pretty analog and antiquated. while glad if this book inspires more trans-centered coming of age narratives, instead of this book i would recommend Janet Mock's fabulous Redefining Realness while listening to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfGXkP......more
this book specifically and Janet's story, however it might be told, are SO CRITICAL to have and add into our cultural narrative and vision of possibilthis book specifically and Janet's story, however it might be told, are SO CRITICAL to have and add into our cultural narrative and vision of possibility and self-realization, and to add VISIBILITY of people who are not represented in our ideal or normative images of "woman." also they are ESSENTIAL in bringing awareness to multiple oppressions that trans, low-income people (particularly youth and young women) of color experience and have to overcome. i am in awe of this woman's remarkable resilience in making it through so many challenges in her young life--she had to overcome so many obstacles both in the private and systemic sociopolitical sphere (and of course, the latter influences and contributes to the former, and so they are not really separate). i am also sincerely moved by her vulnerability in this book--by sharing her journey with such fierce honesty, self-awareness, humility, she exhibits immense strength and courage. the narrative is a page-turning accessible memoir and a literary work drawing inspiration from Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston among others, as well as embedded in a lens of social justice and activism. I LoVed IT. I CRIED. I Highly highly recommend this book!
"A young trans woman, especially a runaway with no familial support, may not find a job due to lack of education or experience, age, or no updated ID documents showing her appropriate gender markers, which can lead to further discrimination. Most likely, if you're a low-income trans woman of color, you don't have access to health care, which makes it difficult to cover hormones and surgeries. With this systemic lack of resources glaring in your face, your body aching for food and hormones, your mind internalizing the pressures of society that say you have to look a certain way and that you don't matter, survival sex work becomes a tried-and-true solution that you've seen older girls survive on for years." (213)
"We must shift the burden of coming out from trans women, and accusing them of hiding or lying, and focus on why it is unsafe for women to be trans." (257)....more
this one really surprised me...it seemed so absurd at the start and i felt some resistance to reading it and yet something pulled me in at the same tithis one really surprised me...it seemed so absurd at the start and i felt some resistance to reading it and yet something pulled me in at the same time. the ridiculous characters and impossible drama became more and more human, nuanced, and rich as i read...and then they became loveable. i started tearing up reading the acknowledgments as i thought of the creative mind and support and energy that had to go into concocting such a ludicrous yet affecting tale. It also made for a gripping and intriguing fast-paced mystery!
"I saw hundreds of them, cathedrals if ice, rubbed like salt licks, shipwrecks, polished from wear like marble steps at the Vatican; Lincoln Centers capsized and pockmarked; airplane hangars carved by Louise Nevelson; thirty-story buildings, impossible arched like out of a world's fair; white, yes, but blue, too, every blue on the color wheel, deep like a navy blazer, incandescent like a neon sign, royal like a Frenchman's shirt, powder like Peter Rabbit's cloth coat, these icy monsters roaming the forbidding black." (314)
There is a lovely scene where Bee, the teenage daughter, is overcome by the power of a gospel choir...would love to excerpt the couple pages here, just a sampling instead.
"It was so joyful and unapologetically religious, I realized that these people, "churchy" people, as Mom called them, were actually oppressed, and only now could they open up because they were safely among other churchy people....Some threw their heads beck and even closed their eyes. I raised my hands, to see how it felt. I let my head drop back and my eyes close...."
“Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.” (198-199)....more
as Andrew Solomon's (an author i love) praise on the dust jacket says "This book takes about 90 minutes to read, and it will stretch your vision of whas Andrew Solomon's (an author i love) praise on the dust jacket says "This book takes about 90 minutes to read, and it will stretch your vision of what it means to be human."
the book is translated by David Mitchell and his wife who have a son who has autism. ...more