Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reading Plan - Non-Fiction - Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

As part of my reading plan I try to read widely in many different genres. I look for titles that I think may be popular and under recognized. I'm not looking for best sellers but for the next surprising read. Yesterday I received a package of forthcoming books from Candlewick and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kulkin caught my eye. I've long been fascinated by questions of gender.

When I was in first grade I spent a long time in the pediatric surgical ward of Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. I had appendicitis that was initially diagnosed as "the flu" and ended up at death's door until my mom called a civilian pediatrician who was willing to see me on a Sunday. He sent me to the hospital, with a police escort who met us en route, as he didn't think I should wait for an ambulance. At the hospital, a surgeon who had operated on Dwight D. Eisenhower removed my ruptured appendix. Then, I ended up with peritonitis and developed a nearly fatal penicillin allergy. I was there for what I remember as months but was probably only weeks. There was a boy there who had been operated on to turn him into a girl. It was horrifying. After that experience I had recurring nightmares for more than three decades. I often thought about that boy who had been turned into a girl and wondered what had happened to him.

Because of this experience I was fascinated by stories of transgender people. Luna, an outstanding novel  by Julie Anne Peters was the first book dealing with the issue I found. I also found great empathy in reading Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger and I am J by Cris Beam.

For me, I think the appeal of these stories is seeing into the lives of people who feel different, who don't fit into the narrow roles sometimes assigned to us and deciding to claim who they are.

Beyond Magenta does a terrific job of this. Kulkin has entered the lives of seven very diverse teens to tell their stories. Some are people born in the wrong bodies, or born with indeterminable genders (I think that was probably the deal with the boy I met in the hospital who has so haunted me), or are a a little of both commonly recognized genders, or a person who doesn't want to be identified by a gender at all. Kulkin's striking and insightful photographs add another dimension to the stories of these young people who are figuring out who they are in a world that is not always friendly to them.

This compelling book is a sensitive and fascinating look into the lives of these teens.

As part of a readers'  advisor reading plan, non-fiction is important because sometimes readers become fascinated by a topic and want more information, it gives the readers' advisor concrete information on the topic helping to discern the best or most reliable fiction on a topic. It also gives on a broader knowledge base.

This book will be out in February 2014. ISBN: 978-0-7636-5611-9.

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