I have always taken an interest in novels that send a message and spread awareness of social topics or issues that are relevant to today’s society. Not only do they open my eyes to the harsher realities that are endured by other people, but they also leave me more educated and informed. So in this blog post I will be sharing my thoughts on two LGBT, specifically focusing on transgender, books that I especially enjoyed.
~will contain spoilers~
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williams
(For any who have not read this book, David’s true identity is female, therefore I will be referring to her with she/her pronouns. This is just to clear up any confusion of why the male name doesn’t match up to the female pronouns).
This was actually the first book I read of this genre that introduced me to this topic. The story centres around the two main protagonists, David and Leo, whose stories are told in turn and intertwine as they meet each other at school and become friends. Both of them are transgender. What is interesting about this book is that although Leo is narrating half of the story, we only discover that he is transgender half way through the book, when he reveals this to David. This shows that the fact that he is transgender is not the only thought that consumes his brain, so we are able to see aspects of his life that are completely separate to this information about him. Leo is a very reserved and private person; he does not like sharing his life with other people. Although he is going stealth at school (not making others aware that he is transgender), Leo is not ashamed of himself, which is refreshing to read. This shock revelation of Leo’s birth gender contrasts to the reveal of David’s secret, which is told to us by the end of the first page. Unlike Leo, David’s true gender is unknown by other people, apart from HER two best friends. This means that since she has to live in a body that she should not truly own, we as the reader learn more about her struggles with coming to terms with her true gender. Despite hiding this fact about herself, David is presented to be a more open, warmer and affectionate person than Leo is. This novel is extremely effective in mixing in humour and the importance of friendship with raising awareness of what it is to be transgender, and the consequences that can sometimes come with that. I found the ending where David finally confessed to her parents that she is, in fact, a girl, to be lovely and heart warming. The change in David once she has finally revealed what has been weighing her down for all those years is remarkable, and a pleasure to read.
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
If I Was Your Girl revolves around just one person, a transgender girl named Amanda. As mentioned in the writer’s notes, Russo decided to make “Amanda’s trans-ness as unchallenging to normative assumptions as possible”. Yes, this shows perhaps a less realistic transition, but it also makes the reader “have no possible barrier to understanding Amanda as a teenage girl with a different medical history from most other girls”. This is important in making the reader fully understand that Amanda is a girl, and would still be even if she didn’t pass so easily. Amanda is a raw, honest and open person who has a magnetic personality that draws others in. This is proven by both Grant and Bee’s attraction to her. This novel also explores same sex relationships, particularly between Bee and Chloe, and then Bee and Amanda. Personally, I dislike Bee. She is a good character in terms of complexity, however I found her to be very ‘try hard’, for lack of a better term. She has a slight superiority complex, and thinks herself to be deep and meaningful compared to others, which leads her to behave condescendingly towards everyone else. An example of this is, “I hate y’all because you could be so great. So many of you are, like, one step away from being so cool, and you’re so afraid of nothing that you all pretend to be normal”. This, to me, makes Bee a very unlikeable character.
Grant’s attraction to Amanda is immediate, he is curious about her. I find Grant to be an interesting character. He’s very family orientated (he juggles working with school to finance his family), kind, and understanding of Amanda’s struggle to open up to him. Once it is revealed that Amanda is transgender, he is unable to contain his emotions. He’s initially horrified, shocked, and confused. But still, he cannot ignore his love for her. He attempts to educate himself about what it means to be transgender, and while he feels that for now they can’t go back to the way they were before, he’s curious to find out more so he can understand her further. But the real heart warming moment comes at the end of the novel, which is Amanda’s self acceptance.
“For as long as I could remember, I had been apologizing for existing, for trying to be who I was, to live the life I was meant to lead. Maybe this would be the last conversation I would ever have with Grant. Maybe not. Either way, I realized, I wasn’t sorry I existed anymore. I deserved to live. I deserved to find love. I knew now- I believed, now- that I deserved to be loved”.