An outsiders’ guide to the experiences of transgender individuals.
Portraying a marginalized group for the consumption of the majority is always a dicey proposition, and Cronn-Mills’ (whose Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, 2012, won a 2014 Stonewall Award) effort here illustrates many of the pitfalls. Short, third-person narrative portraits of transgender individuals—all adults and all but one apparently white—are interleaved with dry, overgeneralized informational segments about identities, health care, and historical and cross-cultural examples of gender nonconformity. Despite the title’s promise of complexity, the portraits are too brief to give anything more than an impression of their subjects, and stories focus heavily on coming out and physical transition. Similarly, informational chapters give readers little to hold onto. A typically uninformative sentence begins, “Terms for individuals who have flexible gender identities may include…” and then goes on to list 10 terms without attempting to explain or contextualize any of them. Entries in an erratically selected “Who’s Who” unnecessarily and inappropriately include transgender public figures’ birth names, and accounts of violence against transgender people are slotted jarringly among neutral or positive informational segments.
Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta (2014), which documents the lives of transgender teens in their own words, is a superior title in every way. (timeline, glossary, notes, bibliography, further information, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)