Finding Yourself in a Book

Growing up, I’d always run with the boys – playing street ball, wading through creeks, talking sports.  The first day of sixth grade, when the girls self-selected to sit separately in the lunchroom, made it clear that life was changing. I needed a primer course in all things girl.  Thank heavens for Judy Blume.  Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was my go-to book for learning about periods, bras, and middle-school girl drama.  Reading about another girl who was kinda like me – and who I kinda wanted to be like – made my life easier.

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Ragged and worn, I’ve lost my copy along the way…but I never lost the comfort I felt from reading about someone similar to me.  I expect it’s the same for most people. When we are confused, scared, or just lost, we look for ourselves in books. We always have. Ranganathan’s second law of library science states as much: Every reader his/her book.

Maybe that’s why, 24 hours after the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair article hit the web, I haven’t stopped thinking about two books: Ami Polonsky’s Gracefully Grayson and Alex Gino’s George.

Both stories feature tween boys whose internal struggle with identifying as transgender make for honest reads while being informative and absorbing.  These are stories that weren’t published 20+ years ago.  Thankfully, that was then.  This is now – when we know these stories mirror the lives of some of our students, when we know that others can gain empathy and edification from reading diverse literature.  This is now, when people can be who they’ve always been – both on the inside and the outside.   The back cover of George says it best: Be Who You Are.

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It can be easier to be who you are when you know someone else going through the same struggles. Finding a friend in a book makes leading your life that much easier: if they can do it – even in a work of fiction – then maybe I can do it, too.

Back in sixth grade, I luckily stumbled upon Margaret in my school library when I needed her.  Being a girl was tough – Margaret helped.  Today, I hope that Grayson and George will be there – literally there on a shelf, in a school library – for someone who needs to see themselves in book, too. Because being a transgender girl has to be tougher than tough.  Thankfully, their stories are being written and published. It’s now our job to have them available for our readers.

 

PS: Be Who You Are, indeed: I still talk sports, wade through creeks, and play street ball with my kids. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Finding Yourself in a Book

  1. kariannwrites

    How fantastic that you found Margaret at just the right time! I was never able to connect with that book, but I think that it had more to do with other reasons than the reason that she wrote it. I do love Gracefully Grayson! It’s done well and without the violence in George. There might be children who connect to George more, though, and I’m glad it’s out there. Thank you as always for putting together your blog posts. It’s a joy to read the thoughts and ideas you synthesize.

    Reply

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