Resolve to Read: A novel by a trans or non-binary author

As we did last year, the Free For All is Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2019, and tackling the 2019 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  We haven’t been terribly good about posting our selected titles thus far this year, we know….however, the nice thing about New Year’s Resolutions like this is that there is always room and time to begin, and begin again, and start anew.  So in the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2019 Read Harder Challenge
Category: A novel by a trans or non-binary author

Everyone is made up of stories, dear readers.  We all have experiences that shape us, relationships that mold us, and revelations that change our perspectives in wonderful and unique ways.  But it’s critically important to remember that the stories that make us look very different.  They are seldom traditional narratives, and are seldom neat, organized, or rational.  It’s critically important for us, as readers and as people, to recognize how many different kinds of stories, narrators, and protagonists are really out in our world.  And that is why reading books by authors whose lives are not like our own is so necessary to our development.  They offered critical insight into the way the world works, the different struggles and triumphs that it holds, and how we as individuals, can assist each other to make the best world possible.  Today, we celebrate the stories that trans and non-binary authors have to share with us, and offer a selection of just a few of the titles you can try here.

For those looking to learn more about this category, according to the  website of the Trans Student Educational Resources, the word “Trans” is an encompassing term of many gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.  The word “Non-Binary” (or “Nonbinary”) is an umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man.  It is used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Sometimes (and increasingly), nonbinary can be used to describe the aesthetic/presentation/expression of a cisgender or transgender person. To learn more, please feel free to visit the Trans Student Educational Resources webpage!

And now, on to the books!

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee:  A high-energy mashup of fantasy and hard science-fiction, and social/political thriller tropes, the beginning of Lee’s Machineries of Empire series features Captain Kel Cheris, who has suffered disgrace as a result of her unconventional tactics.  In order to save her position and reputation (not to mention the survival of all those under her command and protection), Captain Cheris decides to ally the undead tactician Shuos Jedao.  But the alliance carries its own risk: Shuos Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.  How far can Cheris trust Shuos Jedao before becoming his next victim?  This series opener won rave reviews from reviewers and readers, including the New York Times, who called it “A tight-woven…breathtakingly original space opera.”

The Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan: Part mystery, part character-narrative, this novel falls into the “crimes of the past coming back to haunt the future” stories that have been proving incredibly popular recently.  On a warm August night in 1980, six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. But it’s not long before they realize they are locked in—and not alone. When the friends get lost and separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy, and the unexpected, far-reaching consequences reverberate through the survivors’ lives. As they go their separate ways, trying to move on, it becomes clear that their dark night in the prison has changed them all. Decades later, new evidence is found, and the dogged detective investigating the cold case charges one of them—celebrity chef Jon Casey— with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith Carrigan can testify to his innocence.  But Judith is hiding secrets of her own, and saving Casey will most likely mean destroying the live that she has worked so hard to build.  While the mystery aspect of this story isn’t as strong as some others, the powerfully-drawn characters and impressive insight that Boylan provides here earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it “a Shirley Jackson–like haunting, a secret-laden murder tale featuring an ensemble cast, and an eye-opening glimpse of the complex choices transgender people face.”

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead: This novel tells the story of a Native American/Indigenous character who defines their gender as Two-Spirit, in the tradition of their people.  Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living.  But when Jonny must return to the reservation in order to attend his step-father’s funeral, he finds himself trying to cope with the hardships of his present day life and left-behind past together, assembling the pieces of his identity to form a coherent whole.  This is a novel that offers a fascinating and sympathetic perspective of one individual’s unique journey, but also provides a glimpse into the various lifestyles Jonny inhabits, making it a radical and critically important book.  Booklist hailed Whitehead as ” A radically original new voice” in their praise for this novel.

Nevada by Imogen Binnie: Darkly comic and heartfelt, this novel tells the story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she’d carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a physical, mental, and emotional journey that will change her thinking, her feelings about life and the world around her, and, ultimately, Maria herself.  Though bleak, and with a surprisingly tough ending, this book, which Imogen Binnie described as “a story about trans women that was intended for an audience of trans women,” has inspired other trans authors to begin writing in their own voice, which is the best kind of reaction to a book we can imagine.

And just to remind you, for those of you interested in talking more about these books, our good friends over at the Beverly Library have an LGBTQ Book Group that is held on the 3rd Monday of the month from 7-8:30 PM.  Take a look at their reading lists, and think about signing up!

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