There are books that need to happen to pave the way for something, and you have to accept them even if they’re kind of shitty, so long as they’re not harmful. When it comes to being a trans person and having your life and identity more widely represented in YA or children’s literature, that means Luna by Julie Anne Peters, which is a literarily terrible book with piles of strawmen getting knocked over on every page. But it was what there was, and now, thankfully, there are other books coming out starring trans teens, like I am J or Freakboy. But when it comes to middle grade, there is basically nothing there, even though kids know early – very early – what gender they feel they are. That doesn’t mean they know their sexuality at three years old (though I would suggest that our idea that you don’t figure out your sexuality until about age 16 is like four to six years off), but to say that children don’t know who they are at their core is an incredibly insulting, and you know how I feel about adults who think children are stupid. Inexperience ≠ innocence ≠ ignorance (the first is what children have, the second is a fallacy, and the third can only be determined on a case by case basis and is not a given with all children about all things). Anyway. What I think is happening is that since everyone likes to conflate sex with gender with sexuality (maybe I should pull out more of those “does not equal” signs), nobody wants to put out a middle grade novel with a trans protagonist because they think that that will mean sexualizing children (oooh, another non-equation: sexualizing children ≠ children having sexuality – one is not okay, the other is true whether you like it or not), and GAWD FORBID we do that. So I was really pleased when I heard about this book that was forthcoming from Disney Hyperion, and I was so happy that they gave me access to it on Netgalley. I read it all in one day (yesterday), and I mostly really loved it.
Not everything is perfect about this book, and I feel a little ill at ease writing this review, because I can’t really gauge authenticity about an issue I can claim ZERO personal experience with and only a couple of friends/acquaintances whose experiences I have watched from a fairly far distance. And all those acquaintances happened to be FTM trans, and most books, I’ve noticed, focused on MTF, maybe because we like to conflate female-to-male trans-ness with tomboyishness and think that they’re the same? Or because we have more unease about men exhibiting feminine characteristics and therefore MTF narratives seem more subversive or scandalous? Or something else? No idea. Something to unpack at a later time, because I am digressing a lot. Continue reading
At one of my sessions at KidLitCon, I talked about what bloggers can do specifically to help with the diversity cause as book bloggers. I say “specifically” because that’s what’s often missing from the conversation, and I say “as book bloggers” because I looked at most of the blogs of most of the KidLitCon attendees and realized that for the most part, they fell into one of three types of bloggers: Jack/Jill of All Trades, Greeter, or Analyst. I made these terms up and their profiles, and I’m still not sure whether I’m Jill or an Analyst or somewhere in between, though I’m definitely not a Greeter.
But you may be! And since my Google Slides thing was mad ugly and put together in a flash, I went and made a shmancy “infographic” (my coworker would object to the term because I don’t actually use images to convey data or information; I just used Pictochart to make a thing that was cute – and I’m really not a graphic designer, as you can see) that you can now download and/or share (so long as you link back RIGHT HERE and don’t modify it, though I certainly encourage you to continue the conversation, offer your suggestions for a rewrite, or suggest other book blogger types) with your friends. I’m pretty proud of myself, and I hope you find these suggestions useful or the types illuminating or thought-provoking. Just click to see the graphic. I’ll throw it on my resources page, too. Continue reading
There is an interesting conversation that went on last week on the child_lit listserv about this NY Times article on the trend of adult nonfiction authors rewriting their titles for young audiences. I was going to reply there, but the conversation has sort of gone dead, and everyone on that listserv dislikes me anyway, so instead I will write an essay about it. Of course, this is in fact not a new trend at all, but the Times could get more clicks if they claimed it was and also if their headline was “Hey, If You Hate YA Because You Think It Means Everyone Is Getting Stupider, Click Here and We Will Let you Complain About That,” so that’s what they made their headline. Long story short, because I don’t really like summarizing things, the article was about when publishers and authors take a best-selling nonfiction book for adult readers and adapt it into something suitable for younger readers. Surprisingly for a piece of writing about a topic in which the journalist has no expertise and doesn’t care, this one actually doesn’t use “YA” as a catchall to mean “anything for people who can’t vote that is longer than 32 pages and in a smaller trim size,” so my Bingo card for the Journalists Who Know Nothing About YA Except That It’s Trendy Refusing To Consult Experts Before Writing Articles Game is not full. So that’s awesome. Anyway.
There are interesting things going on here for sure, and I can see plenty of sides to it. Having been a kid when the book Chinese Cinderella (Adeline Yen Mah) enjoyed some success and was a trendy thing to read, especially after A Child Called It, I remember reading it and then finding another book by the same author, titled Falling Leaves. Given that as early as I can remember, I read books like a script supervisor and thought often about what my moves would be when I was a publisher, you can imagine my surprise when this book was the exact same as the book I had just read. Continue reading