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Month in review

Reviews
The American Highway by William Kaszynski
Blizzard by John Rocco
The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King
Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
Don Eddy: The Art of Paradox by Donald B. Kuspit
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick
Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle
The Flying Squad by Edgar Wallace
George by Alex Gino
Ghoul Interrupted by Victoria Laurie
Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 1: 1970s-1981 by Ed Piskor
In the Driver's Seat by Cynthia Golomb Dettelbach
Last Message by Shane Peacock
The Lincoln Highway by Michael Wallis
Magic Thinks Big by Elisha Cooper
A Murderous Yarn by Monica Ferris
My Name Is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada
Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith
Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester
The Spider by Elise Gravel
A Spirited Gift by Joyce Lavene
A Stitch in Time by Monica Ferris
Tommy Can't Stop! by Tim Federle
Unraveled Sleeve by Monica Ferris
Up, Tall and High by Ethan Long
The Vacation by Polly Horvath
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Woundabout by Lev A.C. Rosen

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Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



George: 11/23/15

George by Alex GinoGeorge by Alex Gino was originally titled Girl George but the publisher lobbed off the first word in an ironic demonstration of transgender erasure. The book is about a fourth grader who calls herself Melissa. Her problem, though, is she was born with a penis and the name George.

Let me start by saying I like Melissa and eventually I came to like her overly masculine brother. He's set up to be the BIG BAD but he doesn't take the bait. The older brother is a belching, pornography consuming, stinky, loud mouthed, stereotypical boy of the types you see in sitcoms (such as Home Improvement).

Melissa wants to be the exact opposite and has saved up her allowance money to purchase the types of teenage beauty magazines that make me cringe. She wants long hair, long dresses, makeup and jewelry.

The catalyst for Melissa to finally start making her true identity public is her otaku love of Charlotte's Web (yes, another in a long line of these recent homages). Her class is putting on a play based on the book and Melissa desperately wants to be Charlotte. Her problem, though, is that as a "boy" she's not given an opportunity to try out for any of the "girl" parts.

Now this boy vs girl parts in a play also shows up in Gracefully, Grayson, another story of a transgender youth. In both cases, it's expected for boys to play boy parts and girl to play girl parts and the drama comes to a head when the protagonist is forced to out themselves in order to participate in the way they feel most comfortable with.

It is the use of the rigidly structured play that I have the most trouble with George. Although I grew up in a fairly conservative, homogenous, and frankly, homophobic neighborhood, a child wanting to play a character of a differently perceived gender wouldn't have caused this much uproar. We did tons of plays all the way through elementary school and everyone was allowed to try out and play every character.

My other complaint with George is more of a reaction to the small but growing number of these books that I've read, and I will touch on this concern of mine in more detail in a separate post. The problem with books about transgender characters is that male and female are played to their stereotypical extremes. Melissa and her brother are set up as polar opposites from the very beginning of the book. Siblings are usually more like each other than they are like their parents even if one is male and one is female.

But George is such a short book and so focused on Melissa's troubles at school with the play that there isn't time to explore why her brother acts the way he does. Nor does Melissa give an explanation as to why she believes she has to act a certain way as part of being a girl. I wish these character traits for both siblings had been addressed, rather than leaving it as given that boys are a certain way and girls are a different way, even when trapped inside a body that looks male.

Three stars

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