As a student and teacher, I’m not going to lie — the beginning of the school year really puts a damper on the amount of fun reading I get to do. Still, with the help of audiobooks and a long commute, I’m still trucking along.
For this particular task, I have to echo the sentiments of Rah Froemming-Carter’s Book Riot article on the subject — my instinct in introducing this post is to talk about the persecution transgender and nonbinary people face. While those conversations are certainly important, they’re not really in the spirit of this task. It’s not about supporting trans and nonbinary authors out of pity; it’s about the fact that transgender and nonbinary authors are putting out some really amazing and diverse books. Whether you are into sci-fi, graphic novels, children’s literature, or literary fiction, there’s something here for you.
“An Unkindness of Ghosts” by Rivers Solomon follows Aster, a slave on the race-divided decks of the space vessel HSS Matilda who works as a surgeon’s assistant. A connection emerges between the illness of the ship’s sovereign leader and the alleged suicide of her mother 25 years ago. Aster works to unravel the mystery, which could offer her the possibility of escape. This book is a whopping quadruple dipper, also satisfying task #2: an alternate history, task #6: a book by an AOC set in or about space), and task #1: a book by or about someone who identifies as neurodiverse.
“George,” the titular character of this middle-grade novel, knows that she is a girl even though everyone thinks that she is a boy. When her class puts on a production of “Charlotte’s Web,” George desperately wants to play Charlotte, but her teacher won’t even let her audition because she says that George is a boy. When George’s best friend, Kelly, is cast as Charlotte, the two come up with a plan so that George can not only play Charlotte, but also be her true self. This book could also count for task #22: a children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009.
In Akwaeke Emezi’s debut novel “Freshwater,” Ada, born with one foot on the other side, develops separate selves. Born in Nigeria, the result of the fervent prayers of her parents, she moves to the United States for college. A traumatic assault exacerbates her mental illness, and her split selves ultimately take over her mind.
My personal pick for this task was “Little Fish” by Casey Plett, author of the short story collection “A Safe Girl to Love.” Wendy is a 30-year-old transgender woman living in Winnipeg. She has a great support system in her chosen family, a group of friends who are also transgender. After her grandmother’s death, Wendy discovers evidence that her Mennonite grandfather may have secretly been transgender as well. This novel follows Wendy and her friends as they deal with the harsh realities of alcoholism, sex work and poverty.
There are a lot of scary situations in which a queer, black teen can find themselves, and one of them is an all-white Christian sleep-away camp. This is the case for Charlie, the protagonist of Melanie Gillman’s heartfelt graphic novel, “As the Crow Flies.” Alienated by her counselors and fellow campers, Charlie finds an ally in the outspoken Sydney, who is also queer. Together, the two form a friendship and brave the emotional and physical challenges the camp presents. This book could also count for task #21: a comic by an LGBTQIA creator.
For more recommendations for this task, check out this list in Bibliocommons. Happy reading!