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2016 Transgender and Gender Non-conforming Books for Teens

November 14-20 is Transgender Awareness Week and November 20 is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Transgender Awareness Week helps raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and helps to address the issues the community faces. Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day set aside to memorialize those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

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This is a great time to highlight new books that celebrate the transgender experience. 2016 has been a positive in year in publishing as we have seen more voices from the transgender community, and more representation of transgender and gender non-conforming characters in literature. There have thrillers and romances, explorations of identity and coming of age, and books for younger readers as well as teens. Here are 11 titles published this year to note:

The Art of Being Normal By Lisa Williamson

Told through alternating voices, this British novels follows the story of two transgender teens. Leo Denton has just transferred to new school where he hopes to be invisible, especially as being transgender. David Piper hasn’t come out yet as Kate, and has only confided in two friends. After a couple of bullying incidents where Leo stands up for David, they fall into a somewhat reluctant friendship. After discovering what they have in common, the information gets out to the school, causing Leo to flee.

Beast By Brie Spangler

Set in Portland, OR, Dylan, who struggles with being abnormally big, and abnormally hairy, breaks his leg after falling off his roof. Since he is often teased about his size and hair, and at school called, “Beast,” this is seen as possibly not an accident, and Dylan has to attend a therapy group for self-harmers. There he meets the beautiful Jamie who he seems to see him for who he truly is. After he starts falling in love with her, he learns that she is transgender.

Being Jazz: My Life as A (Transgender) Teen By Jazz Jennings

Fifteen-year-old Jazz Jennings, a transgender activist, YouTube personality, and reality-show star memoir recounts what it is like to be a teen, especially a transgender teen, living a very public life. Since she was six-years-old and did a televised interview with Barbara Walters, both Jennings and her family have created a life of activism trying to support other transgender children and teens.

Girl Mans Up By M-E Girard

Set in Ontario, Pen Oliveira is the second child of conservative Portuguese parents who immigrated to Canada. Pen does not want to define herself too closely, but is “not into dudes,” looks and dresses like a boy, but finds that their are too many expectations with the LGBTQ lexicon as she identifies with being a boy, yet knows she’s a girl. She just wants to be who she is. Her best friend Colby has been acting like a jerk, especially to girls, but their friendship is really tested when she finds out he has gotten a girl pregnant and is trying to shirk any responsibilities. Pen finds solace when her crush starts to reciprocate feelings and they begin to work on a photography assignment together.

If I Was your Girl By Meredith Russo

This is an #OwnVoices book. Amanda has just moved to Tennessee to live with her estranged father after violent incident outside Atlanta where she was living with her mother makes her feel no longer safe. She is hoping for a new start, and only wants to fit in at her new school. Her father is still struggling with Amanda’s recent gender reassignment, making the homelife tense. She finds herself falling in love with the sweet and gentle Grant, and wants to share more about herself.

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity By Kristin Elizabeth Clark

After high school graduation, Jess, a transgender teen, heads out on a road trip with her best friend, Chunk, to crash her father’s wedding. The journey is one of self-awareness and self-acceptance for both teens.

Lily and Dunkin By Donna Gephart

At the start of their eighth grade year, both Lily and Dunkin are trying to establish new identities for themselves. Everyone sees Lily as Timothy, but she is ready for the real her to be known, only her father isn’t ready for the the transition. Dunkin, has just moved to Lily’s Florida town to live with his Grandmother, and would love to leave his old name “Norbert” and some painful secrets in the past. One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Look Past By Eric Devine

This mystery/thriller starts with a murder. When Mary, the daughter of a prominent and very conservative local pastor is killed, her best friend Avery, a transgender boy, is forced to pick up the pieces. After, the murderer starts sending Avery threats that he, or his other close friends, will be next if Avery doesn’t repent for changing his gender identity. Now, Avery has to be braver than her ever thought.

The Other Boy By M. G. Hennessey

A book written for younger readers, but is one that teens will appreciate. Shane, a young transgender boy, has transferred to a new school and is just a normal guy. He loves baseball, graphic novels and hanging out with his best friend. He even has a crush on someone. But a bully at school is determined to find out why Shane switched schools, and this causes Shane anxiety.

Symptoms of Being Human By Jeff Garvin

Riley, a gender-fluid teenager starts a blog to work through issues of gender identity that quickly goes viral. Riley’s father, a prominent politician is in the midst of a heated reelection campaign, and it has Riley wanting to keep the blog on the down-low. Riley definitely doesn’t want anyone at the new school to know about it, but Riley starts to get some threats, some that might be close to home.

When the Moon Was Ours By Anna-Marie McLemore

Filled with lush language and magical realism, this is a story of two best friends turned lovers: Miel, a girl who grows roses from her forearms, and Sam who, who paints moons to hang from the trees. When the powerful neighboring Bonner sisters want Miel’s roses for themselves, and she tries to refuse, they threaten to tell Sam’s secret that he was really born a girl.

Here are more national resources for teens – look for local resources near you:

Also see these past posts for more resources:

— Danielle Jones, currently reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Danielle Jones

Danielle is a teen and youth librarian at Multnomah County Library - Hollywood in Portland, Oregon. Her interests include rabbits, reading, and redefining "work appropriate" clothing. Usually she has a song from Hamilton stuck in her head.

One Comment

  1. I only read part of this one for a project with my Speech and Debate teens, but it seemed good. “None of the Above” by I. W. Gregorio, about a girl who discovers she’s intersex.

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