Book Review: Transgressive

Title: Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics

Author: Rachel Anne Williams

Format: Netgalley Advance Reader’s Copy PDF

Published: 2019

 

Thank you to Netgalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for my honest book review!  This book is scheduled to be released on May 21, 2019!

I would like to note that this book is out of my normal wheelhouse of books.  This is a book of essays written by Rachel Anne Williams, a transgender woman, taken from her blog she writes.  I am not normally a fan of essays, but this book intrigued me and I was excited to be approved for the advance copy.

The author prefaces this book with letting you know to read the book however you want.  Since this was an ebook for myself, it was easiest to read it straight through.  She also asks for feedback and requests it come in the form of a “shit sandwich.”  What this means is you say something that wasn’t so great, add in a part or something you loved, and end with something else that needs a little work.  I appreciate this author and her quest for honest, constructive feedback.

The essays are categorized in similar groups and so they begin.  I had to Google a lot of things in this book.  As someone who does not know any trans gendered people, this was my first real introduction in to this world.  Suddenly terms appeared in the essays and I was clueless at what they meant.  This became frustrating to have to read with my phone nearby so I could look up new terms.  I did find that as I read and finished the book, many of the terms were explained in detail that I had to originally look up.  It would have been great to have those essays at the beginning of the book or at least an extra preface to terminology that someone outside of the transgendered world would not be familiar with.

Williams is a well-educated woman with a clear background in philosophy.  The way she writes is stunning and remarkable.  You can tell she thought about how she wanted to articulate herself.  I also appreciated that she made sure to clarify that this book is about HER experience, and her experience only, and that everyone’s experience is different.  I will say it was eye opening to learn about the process and what transgendered people go through.  If you are looking for an insight and are overall just curious, I must steer you in the direction of Rachel and this book.

I wanted to like this book more than I did, but, I found myself skipping over a few essays as they just went above my head.  It also frustrated me to have unfamiliar terms explained at the end of the book.  I know this also probably goes with the nature of an advance copy, but, there were footnotes that were all at the end of the book.  That made it difficult to read the footnotes, so I just gave up on trying, it would have been helpful to have them at the end of each essay instead.

I am giving Transgressive a 3.5 star rating.  It held my interest and I feel much better informed and understanding of issues and the process that surrounds transgendered people.  I also see the potential in the book to be very controversial.  You won’t be sorry if you pick this book up to read and you really can skip around and read essays in whatever order (my recommendation is start with the last category of essays first).  I hope to read more work from Williams in the future.

 

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Book Review – Being Jazz

TITLE: Being Jazz: My life as a (Transgender) teen
AUTHOR: Jazz Jennings
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2016

For those who don’t know, Jazz Jennings first hit America’s psyche as the 4-year-old kid who knew he was really a she. Since that moment 10+ years ago, Jazz has gained a bit more fame, and now has a children’s book and a television show, both titled I Am Jazz, and a slew of awards for being things like “amazing” and “wonderful” and “courageous” and whatever else in her quest to be an advocate for trans issues.

I wanted to read the book to understand better.

It’s listed as a memoir, published by a children’s publisher, and, at least in my library, shelved in the very odd…genre?… of YA Non-Fiction.
I don’t know what I thought I was expecting, but chances are that I wanted a look at actual trans issues.
What I got was…not that.

First of all, a then 14-year-old makes for a really boring memoir subject. I mean, take away the trans stuff, and all you have is soccer and good grades. And the book mostly glossed past all of that.

And it totally glossed over a lot of the trans stuff too. “Hey, my parents had to deal with me not being able to play soccer, but I still got to practice with the team, so at least I had that…” Um.
Somewhere about halfway through this book it dawned on me why I dislike the show so much, and it’s criticism here, too… Nothing ever is bad or hard or whatever. I mean, even when something *was* going wrong, she’d gloss over it like it was a little footnote. “My parents never told me, so everything was wonderful!”

Actually, on that note, it glossed over most stuff period. She used the phrase “chick with a dick” twice, but couldn’t actually use words to describe body parts when she talked about herself. She talked about her “D” the same way Anastasia Steele talks about her “sex”. (That is to say, stupidly.)

Come on. I know you’re not going to get the most amazing story ever told from a kid, but there are plenty of bios and memoirs about kids that were interesting to read (Ryan White, for example). This one was a snooze. The only thing that saved me from falling asleep was that it read so fast because Jazz herself is the one that wrote it.

Another criticism I have is that Jazz sort of assumed the only people that would ever read the memoir were in a trans world somehow. A lot of the chapters start off as stories but then near the end of the chapter, the fourth wall comes down and there’s a part where Jazz says something like “Hey, reader, if you need help, you should look at the appendix”…

So, again, a book I had high hopes for that ended up pretty much being crap. I mean, I don’t see a lot of purpose to the book and it’s totally fluff. Even the Q&As at the end of the book with her family seemed like crap. In the interview with her brothers, we basically get “We hate being lumped together as twins” (irony – theirs was the only interview with two people at once) and “She got to meet the president and we didn’t, but it’s okay!”

Since it’s like the only resource out there for trans kids, I should probably cut it a little slack, but the fact that there’s little resource here and just a fake sense of perfect rainbows, I’m giving it a 2 out of 5. Maybe the book will help somebody who is trans, but for anyone who isn’t, there’s nothing helpful here.

Book Review: The Letter Q

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves
Edited By: Sarah Moon & James Lecesne
Format, etc: Hardback, 2012

So an author, Sarah, got together with the creator of the Trevor Project, James, and decided to do a non-fiction book on a simple premise – what would you say to your (sometimes much)younger self to say that everything will be okay? They then took this idea to five dozen GLBT authors and artists and came up with a collection large enough to make this book.

I’ll admit, I have no need for this book. (Truth be told Q is my favorite letter of the alphabet and the cover grabbed me.) But when I saw it at the library, I was intrigued. I wanted to know what these people needed to say.

As far as the letters themselves… here’s the thing. I was expecting something…less mainstream. But the letters all just basically say “Hey, life will be good, everything will be better, push through the crap you’re dealing with now,” which isn’t a bad thing, but. Very few of these letters actually address GLBT issues directly. And like I said, that’s not a bad thing, but since that’s the point of the book, I was sort of expecting a little more of it. Also, the letters all sort of blend together after a while. After you read a handful of them, there aren’t any extra gems of wisdom, and since they’re letters to the author’s self, some of them don’t really apply to anyone else. I read the intro paragraph of a couple of them and then skipped on to the next one.

Another issue that I had with this book is that I didn’t really know who a lot (okay most) of these people were. I think that it would have made a little more of an impact for the people to have been better known so that the people reading the book could be like “Oh, if made it…”

Still, I think that for a teenager dealing with GLBT issues (the book’s actual demographic), that the book will be helpful. Because of that, I’m torn with giving it a number. If the book fits, It’s a 5/5, but if the book doesn’t, it’s barely a 3/5.

trevor-project-image-31

If you need help, call the helpline.  Remember, you *are* important
and loved and you will make a difference in this world…

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