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Rebecca Rabinowitz
As far as I know (please correct me if you know otherwise!), this is the first nonfiction book about trans teens written for teens. I've read the whole thing, and I love it.

Professionally, I'm out of my wheelhouse here, because I rarely have the chance to read YA nonfiction. If and when any of you read it, I'd love to hear what you think.

Six teens are featured. Each has their own chapter, no overlapping. Each chapter is made up mostly of that person's own words about themself, narrating in first person (though it all came about through interviews and visits with author Susan Kuklin, who's done some editing for order and flow, which she explains at the end). Interspersed with that teen's own words are short comments/questions/prompts by Kuklin, but the main vibe is each kid speaking for themself. Most chapters have photos (also by Kuklin, with design input from the kids). There is a great range of joy and pain.

Of the six kids, two are definitely kids of color, and two other kids seem to possibly be kids of color. One kid seems clearly white. Not all the kids are trans in a binary way. Some are, but there's genderqueerness here too, and other examples of sex and gender not being binary. Various sexual orientations are represented.

Unless I missed something, the word "cis" isn't in the book at all. The concept is, of course, but not the word. I wonder if cis isn't a word in teen circles. Kuklin uses everyone's chosen gender pronouns, but nary a "sie" or "hir" is in the book either.

Because these people are very young, there are occasionally places where a thing hit me really wrong, a thing that I'd criticize if the book were really written by an adult. Things like "I've never been gay-bashed. No one has ever said really hurtful things to me. I've never experienced much disrespect from my peers. I think that's because I have a positive attitude. I've always been happy and bubbly, and I've never made people feel uncomfortable with who I am" [3]. Or, "For you to be emotionally happy, you need to be physically happy; you need to be in good health" [26]. Or, a moment of parental acceptance being "My mom said, 'I want you to blow the world away with your transition as a man. Start working out. Go to the gym. Look good. And you can't be a fat man. No girl likes that'" [12]. But these kids are super young, and such moments pale in comparison to the great goodness of this book.

There's good backmatter and resources too. (Though I'm rather wildly curious why, given that there's a fiction section, only Middlesex and Luna are in it.)

I want this book on all the shelves. Thank you to the kids who made this book; thank you to Susan Kuklin and the other adults who made this book; and, hey, world -- thank you for having gotten to a place where this book exists and is getting good reviews. Thank you to everyone, everywhere, who's working on that.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
30 January 2014 @ 01:38 am
Via Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature: The 2014 Recipients of the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
30 January 2014 @ 01:33 am
Inhabit Media: "We are an Inuit-owned publishing company, with our head office located in Iqaluit, Nunavut. To our knowledge we are the only independent publishing company located in the Canadian Arctic. Our aim is to preserve and promote the stories, knowledge and talent of Inuit and northern Canada." Vicky Smith, Kirkus children's editor, has a great post about them: Inhabit Media: A Breath of Arctic Air from Nunavut.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
27 January 2014 @ 10:00 am
Because even a book that wins an award on criteria related specifically to oppression and liberation is not subject to examination on other axes. e.E. Charlton-Trujillo's Fat Angie has just won the Stonewall for its excellent portrayal of queerness. Apparently its participation in the notion that fat people should not exist -- its replication of a pattern of fatphobia so hegemonic that nobody seems to see it -- is not important enough to consider alongside its terrific queerness portrayal.

It is, though. We need both. We need all. That would be intersectionality.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
17 January 2014 @ 04:54 pm
On fantasy literature and fictional contraceptives: Seabane Isn't Real.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
04 January 2014 @ 01:34 am
If you're at all interested in disability portrayal in YA, you need to read Earth Girl by Janet Edwards. (Ignore that cover -- it could not be wronger.) This book is a stunning and unusual construction of disability; you could use it to actually teach the social model of disability. Also, the plot is rippingly good, and the romance has some genderswap aspects that truly sparkle (who's the top, who's the bottom, and how does that manifest? Have I tempted you to read it yet?). Earth Girl proves that far-future science fiction needn't be dystopic to be thrilling and have high stakes. And by the end I quite seriously wanted to be an archeologist, which is a first for me.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
28 December 2013 @ 05:17 pm
Awhile back I promised I would try to define what a "naked George moment" is. It comes from my master's thesis and from some lush conversations between Deborah and myself.

It started with using queer theory as a lens for gender constructions in Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness. From my thesis:

Some queer [theory] inquiries might examine gaps, searching for textual words or actions that seem to be significantly absent. For example, when a man named George, happening to be unclothed, finds out that his young male friend training for knighthood is actually a young girl living in drag, he makes her turn away until he can find his breeches; "she obeyed, [but] arguing, 'That's silly. I've seen you naked before'" (Pierce, Alanna 134). The fact that Alanna has seen George naked before is a shocking fact to the reader -- how could she have been seeing him naked all along without our knowledge? Does this prove her point -- the insignificance of the moment -- or does it open up a whole new category of possibilities? A queer reading of this information gap could find implications both sexual and textual, all allowed by the sudden possibility that things might happen without our knowledge.

So I wrote that, and then Deborah and I found ourselves saying, about certain moments in other books and other media, "That's a naked George moment." I think what we mean is, that's a moment in which something about sex, gender, or sexuality receives a spotlight via information being revealed that we didn't know before and about which, the very fact that we didn't know it until now is part of the significance. It's not about unreliable narrators; unreliable narration is a common and fascinating tool in children's lit, but this isn't that. (Although, in some cases, this could be a small, extremely specific subset of that.) This is about when the mode, phrasing, timing, and/or tone of a reveal go directly to queering something. A naked George moment shows something anew somehow, something about sex, gender, or sexuality, without necessarily pinning down what the new truth is. It's not merely a new fact (though the reveal of a fact may be the event); it's a moment that creates queerness by creating questions, by blurring a category or opening up options, by making readers re-evaluate something anew about sex, gender, or sexuality in that text. Or not making us do it but inviting us to do it, and providing a scrap of lush material for that exploration.

What might the original naked George moment mean? I've never written down a list, because none of things on the list are clearly true in the series; the original naked George moment is all about questions without answers. But here are (some of) the questions it opens.Collapse )

I'm not being disingenuous: I know it's easy to argue that Alanna is a classic girl-living-in-drag-for-logistical-reasons and that George thought she was male and now thinks ("sees") that she is female and Bob's your uncle. But that naked George moment -- that textual reveal that she's seen him naked all along without us even knowing, without it mattering -- well, that's something. It's not nothing. At least to me.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
23 December 2013 @ 10:09 pm
Kirkus has given a starred review to Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out. Due out in February. I can't wait to see it.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
15 December 2013 @ 09:24 pm
Dear England, please take good care of my dear brother and dear sister-in-law, as they are now yours as of tonight! I am a proud big sis.
Rebecca Rabinowitz
02 December 2013 @ 02:16 am
Kirkus's selection of Best Young Adult Books of the Year.