Skip to content

Tag: gender

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.


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.

1 Comment

Gendered Booklists and Their Place in Reader’s Advisory

It’s difficult to talk about gender definitions and not talk about labels, double standards, and stereotypes.  There is a fine line between narrowing the focus in a book search based on gender and narrowing topics or experiences.  How do you recommend books?  Do you begin by asking questions or immediately name a title?  While understanding gender roles is necessary to form one’s identity, should gender be a significant role in choosing reading material?  There is a place for gendered booklists, but it should not be the deciding factor and it does not remain the focus of reader’s advisory. After all, how often have you asked an adult “Are you reading a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ book?”

gender and readers' advisory

Some Background on Gender Roles

As adolescents begin to form their own identity we encourage curiosity through learning, yet topics are restricted once labels are introduced.  The preteen and teen years are the years when adolescents broaden their views.  Therefore, a variety of sources is required to shape a full image of gender to prepare them to enter the adult world.

Comments closed

Ice Cold Girl Power: The Snow Queen and Frozen

frozenThe Snow Queen is one of those fairy tales where you really can talk about “the original.”  Unlike other fairy tales, in which we use the term “original” to talk about any number of versions from various times in history we can’t really pin down, this one was written and published by Hans Christian Andersen in 1845. It almost feels not like a fairy tale at all, because if you’re used to the usual (I could say Disneyfied, but it’s really far more common than that) fairy tale structures and characters, this one doesn’t follow. It’s about children, not teenagers or adults; it’s quite long and divided into chapters; and it’s really more of a classic hero’s epic, with challenges and magical beings trying to deter the hero – only the hero is a girl, Gerda, and the person she’s rescuing is her childhood best friend, Kai, who otherwise isn’t all that interesting.

So that’s what’s interesting about The Snow Queen. It’s about a girl doing stuff. Being the boss. Having an adventure and traveling. Rescuing a boy who doesn’t even try to rescue himself because he has ice stuck in his chest, freezing his metaphorical heart. So, like everyone else, I waited with baited breath for Disney to mess it all up.

Warning: from here on out, this post contains what you may or may not define as spoilers, depending on how much you think the surprise of a Disney movie lies in the plot, as opposed to in the sound and look of it all. 


Pink Book, Blue Book

url 13-28-28“It’s just so hard to find books for my teenage son,” lamented a woman in one of my library science classes. My friend and I eyed each other with identical faces of confusion, horror, and disappointment. Does this woman live under a rock? Has she ever actually seen a teen services department of a library, or even the “Youth” section of a Barnes and Noble?

After thinking about it, I realized that she was probably making one of two mistakes: She was either assuming anything published after the year 1995 lacked literary merit (we all know a parent like that, or else we are that parent) or she was exclusively looking for books for her son with male protagonists. Books for boys, about boys.

The New York Times published an article about this epidemic wherein there are just so many feminist characters (one might even say too many, am I right, ladies?) that the entire young adult market seems to have plum forgotten about the boys. I was confused by this article because, at the time, the teenage boys I worked with at a Connecticut library were devouring four, five books a week and happily discussing their thoughts at our teen book talks. And yet, the article was insistent: boys need Strong Male Characters They Can Relate To, and right now, there are apparently too few of those.

But what if the mistake we’re making isn’t about the works themselves? What if, instead, we’re doing teenage boys a disservice by assuming they won’t or can’t relate to female characters (or gay characters, or nonwhite characters, or disabled characters…)? 


YALLFest: Boys Writing Girls

I attended the second annual YALLFest in Charleston, South Carolina, where over 47 YA authors and publishing professionals converged and spoke on multiple panels about literary friendships, their chosen genres, the publishing industry, and readers. The event was hosted by Blue Bicycle Books, with signing tables and panel sites all within a block of each other on one street.

All of the panels I attended were funny and informative, but I would like to focus on one called YA Boy Band: Boys Writing Girls (& Boys). Gender issues in YA literature seem to find mention in a blog or article every other week, including this LA Review of Books article about separate YA fiction for boys and for girls, and I was intensely curious what a bunch of guys could possibly say about gender issues that the entire industry has not been echoing for decades.

It started, as many good discussions must, with a boy band.

Comments closed