Biblio File, LGBT@NYPL
Telling the Stories of the Trans Community
“Write what you know,” they say. So, for TransgenderAwareness Month, we present trans authors (and one author with trans family members) who’ve written memorable trans characters—one book for children, one for young adults, and one for adults.
George by Alex Gino
A wonderful, important novel written for kids around fourth through sixth grades (but appropriate for readers of many ages). The story centers on a girl who was designated male at birth—“George”—but knows she’s really “Melissa.” When her class puts on the stage version of Charlotte’s Web, she wants the role of Charlotte, and it sets off a train of events that lead to Melissa coming out, literally and figuratively.
“It seemed really important that kids have a book that reflects themselves and also that reflects trans people even if they’re not themselves trans,” Gino told MTV.
I Am J by Cris Beam
We’re stretching the rules a bit for this young-adult title: The author isn’t trans, but Cris Beam’s partner and foster daughter are—and the book is just too good not to include in this list. It’s the story of a boy designated female at birth, trying to navigate the physical changes of transitioning and the emotional changes of growing up. But J is more than a stand-in for an idea; he’s a fully formed character who feels eminently real, and his pain and joy become tangible through Beam’s skillful writing.
“I think that in smaller genres, like trans lit, there’s a tremendous pressure to be representative, to be a lot of things to a lot of people…. And yet, I wanted to give J room to be a kid—an individual, imperfect, courageous, terrified, talented, regular kid. He’s just one voice among many—and, while there’s some wonderful transgender writing out there already, there’s so much more room on the shelves!” Beam said in an interview.
Nevada by Imogen Binni
Maria, a young trans punk, made a life for herself in New York City. But when her long-term girlfriend breaks up with her, she sheds her city skin and takes off on a road trip. Binnie won Lambda Literary’s 2014 Emerging Writer Award for Nevada, which defies easy categorization yet appeals to a truly broad audience of readers.
“Having a specific audience in mind—trans women—was probably the main thing that kept me on track with this stuff. And I feel really lucky that it resonated so much with people who aren't trans women too…One piece of wisdom that I guess I know is that if you try to make a thing for everyone you're gonna make a thing nobody's gonna like (unless the groaning, planet-destroying machinery of capitalism coerces them into it, but I don't have the keys to those machines) so I at least had a lot of faith that I could do a good job making a thing for trans women,” Binnie told The Rejectionist.
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Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!