Tuesday 23 July 2019

#CBR11 Book 49: "If I Was Your Girl" by Meredith Russo

Page count: 272 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

#CBR11 Bingo: Own Voices (the book is about a trans girl, written by a trans woman)

Official book description:
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it. 

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It's that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Amanda is going to live with her father and trying to start fresh, after having been beaten up in her former home town. She misses her mother a lot and as she starts to make friends feels guilty that she cannot share the big secret of who she is, and used to be.

Amanda was born Andrew, but from an early age knew that she was trans. Amanda tried to commit suicide, but was lucky enough to receive help and counselling and eventually, transition treatment and surgery. The only way anyone is going to know that she was born a boy is if they see her original birth certificate, or if she tells them her secret.

Making close friends and falling in love when you cannot be entirely honest about who you are and where you came from must be very difficult, as this book explores. As Meredith Russo points out in her afterwards, the trans experience she writes about in this book is far from the reality for a lot of teens and older people out there. Amanda knows from an early age, she has no doubts about her identity. Her parents are, after some difficulties coping, very supportive. She can "pass for female" and has the expensive surgery to make her transition complete. This is not the case with many trans people out there.

I am a nearly forty year old cis-gendered straight woman. I know very little about the trans experience, for all that I now know several trans people. I do know that for all that Norway is incredibly progressive and accepting of lesbian and gay rights, it's fairly deplorable when it comes to the rights and treatment of trans people. While being trans is no longer classified as a mental illness (no, really), I know for a fact that there is a lot of fear and discrimination, and that our glorious universal health care system isn't all that easy to manoeuvre for trans individuals. It makes me deeply sad. 

For Pride Month, I wanted to make an effort to read diversely on the LGBTQIA spectrum. I cannot say that I've read a lot of books with trans characters before (Courtney Milan's Hold Me being a notable and excellent exception), but I'm trying to continue to grow and explore more. This book was good, but for all that I'm glad Amanda's experience was largely positive and she was met with love and support, the book's conflict seemed to resolve a bit too easily (and I'm not sure that quite so many people in rural America are that progressive and open-minded). 

Judging a book by its cover: I think this cover is simple, striking and lovely, and from what I gather from the author's acknowledgements, the model used for this photograph is also trans, which seems only right and fitting.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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