Children's Literature - Barbara L. TalcroftAlthough author Cronn-Mills won the Stonewall Book Award for her novel, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children (Flux, 2012), she admits she is not an expert on the world of transgender, but offers an introduction for teens, with some information and a look at the lives and challenges of a variety of transgendered people. This is a complex subject having a unique vocabulary, with which many teens may not be familiar. A good idea might be to start with the glossarythe word trans* (with asterisk) refers to “the many different gender identities associated with the term.” Cronn-Mills guides readers through short chapters of transgender basics, some history (including cross-dressing and gender-nonconforming groups around the world), medical facts about transition, and challenges of trans* life: prejudice, discrimination, violence, and suicide rates among trans* individuals. Most affecting are the chapters focusing on life stories of transsexual persons; for example, Dean Kotula, who started as a girl but knew very early that he was male. After many years of frustration with medical resources and job discrimination, Dean has made the transition to a fulfilling life as a photographer, gallery owner, and antiques dealer in New England. Also inspiring is the story of the lively Natasha and Nancy, a young trans* couple still exploring issues of gender, while finding support in their love for each other. To some readers these voices will be a revelation; to teens seeking understanding and support for exploring their own gender identities, reading about other varied trans*gender lives may be comforting and encouraging. An essay called “Trans* Online,” a timeline of gender history, and a Who’s Who of prominent trans* Americans will be informative for both. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 12 up.
VOYA, December 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 5) - Mary Ellen SnodgrassAn enlightening introduction to victims of gender misalignment, Cronn-Mills’s book favors autobiography over clinical theory. By revealing childhood hurt and confusion over transgendering, she legitimates the importance of replacing people in the sociosexual roles that suit their bodies and inborn needs. Chapter 11 segues into the nightmare of judgments, discrimination, bullying, and violence that labels misgendered people as pariahs and threatens their existence. A chronology attests to pioneer therapy and activists who have set standards of tolerance and compassion. The glossary increases reader vocabulary to accommodate thirty-one essential terms, such as transition and dysphoria. A thorough bibliography and suggested print and electronic sources point the way for readers who may need a lifeline to answer serious questions about friends, kin, and themselves. Reviewer: Mary Ellen Snodgrass; Ages 11 to 14.
School Library Journal07/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—This ambitious book combines interviews from self-identified transgender people with sections on trans-related information. It includes medical transition, historical information, and profiles of major figures, in ways both basic and more complex. Unfortunately, Cronn-Mills uses language that subtly alienates trans readers. For example, she states that trans people are "just like any individual you know," thereby assuming that readers are cisgender; the introduction relates a situation common to most trans people and then inquires, "Does this story seem strange to you?" The term "trans*" is often incorrectly used throughout the book. Cronn-Mills accurately defines the use of the asterisk as "a way to include all individuals who identify in some way with a 'trans' identity"; however, she also uses it when an individual is discussing their specific, discrete gender, rather than the whole spectrum. There are a lot of positives here, like her coverage of the CeCe MacDonald case and definitions of terms such as "transmisogyny" (albeit incompletely). But Cronn-Mills attempts to cover too much deeply complex information in a slim volume. Her resource list relies on Wikipedia and generic websites, and her bibliography is woefully limited. This title will provide a broad perspective, especially if presented alongside materials written by or with trans people about their lives and communities, such as Kate Bornstein's anthology Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation (Avalon, 2010), Susan Kuklin's Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (Candlewick, 2014), and books published by Topside Press.—Kyle Lukoff, Corlears School, New York City
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)
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