Ciel Book Review

Summary: Ciel is excited to start high school. A gender non-conforming trans kid, Ciel has a YouTube channel and dreams of getting a better camera to really make their mark. Ciel can always rely on their best friend, Stephie, a trans girl who also happens to be a huge nerd. But their friendship begins to feel distant when Stephie makes it clear she wants the fact that she’s trans to be less visible now that they’re in high school. While navigating this new dynamic with Stephie, Ciel is also trying to make a long-distance relationship work with their boyfriend Eiríkur, who just moved back to Iceland. Add to the mix a cute swim star named Liam, and Ciel’s life is becoming more complicated by the minute!

Thoughts and Themes: Thank you to Netgalley and Second Story Press for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

I find it important when reading middle grade to keep in mind the audience it was written for. In this case this book is written for ages – and it is very apparent throughout the book which is a great thing. Something that did throw me off about this book was how many opportunities this book had to go deeper into certain topics but it only touched the surface. I think it would have been better if it focused on one thing and not many little things going on in Ciel’s life.

Something that is brought up in this book is the difference in experiences between a non-binary and a binary trans person. Through Ciel and Stephie’s experiences in school and with their friends you see the difference in how they interact with the world and also with each other. I think that the distinction between the two is important to include because it is not just a different experience but also they each view their trans identity differently.

Something else they show by having these different characters is the difference between a trans person who is clearly trans and one who is stealth. J think that this distinction is important to dhowcase in order to show the privilege someone has in others not knowing you are trans. I recognize there are many layers that go into how someone is seen by society and the way they wish to be seen yet I find it important to recognize the privilege that can come with society thinking your cisgender.

I like how Ciel is also an YouTube and how that plays a role in their life. I thought it was important to view their reaction to negative comments and transphobia online. I thought their response was good for their age and love the way they explain those comments to their brother.

There’s several instances of transphobia throughout the book yet most of these moments explain why they are wrong. There were moments in which Ciel would explain to the reader why something was transphobic or they would try and insert themselves in those moments to correct someone.

While I did enjoy this book a d find it good the intended age range, I do feel like the end is unfinished. There was no real plot and the problems that did arise didn’t really solve themselves. The end felt like there was more of the story that needed to be told and so many of the problems that arose were either dismissed or not fully solved.

Characters: I like each of the characters that are introduced into the book and like that a majority of the main characters are transgender. Ciel is a latinx non binary person, Stephie is a trans girl, and Liam is a trans boy. I found each of the characters likable but would have liked to see a little bit more of their development.

Writing style: I like how Ciel explains a lot of the terminology that they use as words are introduced into the book. I thought that was a great way to educate the audience without distracting from the story. I also thought it was a good way to introduce identities as they appeared in the story through the different characters.

You can pre-order this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library coming September 15th.

Surpassing Certainty Book Review

Goodreads Summary: The journey begins a few months before her twentieth birthday. Janet Mock is adjusting to her days as a first-generation college student at the University of Hawaii and her nights as a dancer at a strip club. Finally content in her body, she vacillates between flaunting and concealing herself as she navigates dating and disclosure, sex and intimacy, and most important, letting herself be truly seen. Under the neon lights of Club Nu, Janet meets Troy, a yeoman stationed at Pearl Harbor naval base, who becomes her first. The pleasures and perils of their union serve as a backdrop for Janet’s progression through her early twenties with all the universal growing pains—falling in and out of love, living away from home, and figuring out what she wants to do with her life.

Despite her disadvantages, fueled by her dreams and inimitable drive, Janet makes her way through New York City while holding her truth close. She builds a career in the highly competitive world of magazine publishing—within the unique context of being trans, a woman, and a person of color.

Long before she became one of the world’s most respected media figures and lauded leaders for equality and justice, Janet was a girl taking the time she needed to just be—to learn how to advocate for herself before becoming an advocate for others. As you witness Janet’s slow-won success and painful failures, Surpassing Certainty will embolden you, shift the way you see others, and affirm your journey in search of self.

Thoughts: I read Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness a few years ago and knew that I had to read this one immediately. It has taken me a while to get back to this book but I am so glad that I returned to it. I decided to listen to it on audio while following along with the book and that was a great choice.

Autobiographies as memoirs are something that are a little difficult to review as I don’t want to review someone’s life. I did want to speak about this one though as I think it is something that is so important to read. I learned just as much from this book as I learned from Janet Mock’s other book.

As I listened this book I paused it many times to put a sticky note in the physical book. There were so many important parts shared and so many things to think about.

Part One: This section of this book talks about Janet Mock’s time during her undergraduate years and her years as she begins her first serious relationship. She also talks a little about the time that she worked at a strip club and lets you know about her family.

I really enjoy how Janet Mock talks about the idea of found family and includes those people throughout her book. She talks about the woman who work with her at the strip club and the owner of the club who took her in. I like how she also includes pieces about her immediate family and how supportive they were of her even if they didn’t always know how to support her.

Janet Mock discusses what being in a relationship as a Trans woman was like for her and the first serious relationship that she is involved in. I like how she slowly reveals who she is to Troy. I like getting to hear about her time dating Troy and how she feels about this relationship. I like hearing about how she slowly begins to date others and enter the dating scene.

I also really like the way she explains her Trans identity to herself and others. I love how she slowly explains the way that she identifies and how she didn’t want to claim her identity as a Trans woman. I think it was important that she talks about consent and access to her body. I thought it was important to learn about the ways in which she gave consent to others regarding her body and how that consent also transferred into her consent of letting others know she is a trans woman.

Part Two: In this portion of the book Janet Mock talks more about her time in graduate school in New York. She discusses what it was like for her to not only be surrounded by whiteness in the city but also being one of five Black girls in her graduate program.

I love the way she discusses her feelings towards this and particularly how she points out that she felt these 5 Black girls “weren’t there for their education but to provide their peers a diverse learning experience.” I thought this was such an important statement and something to really think about. It reminds me of how often time people of color and even more so Black people in a classroom are expected to educate their peers on diversity, inclusion, and racism.

I liked how she included a piece about her in therapy and how that started her writing journey. I thought that piece was so important to destigmatize therapy and bring attention to mental health. I thought it was important that she points out how valuable therapy can be for people of color.

I found it interesting to learn about how she looked away from activism and advocacy work. I thought it was great to learn why she didn’t want to do that work and wanted to forge a different path for herself. She talks about her first jobs about graduation and also her time in publishing. I loved learning about how she came to advocate for herself and how that advocacy shifted into activism for all.

Narrator and Writing Style: I loved listening to this book as the person who is reading the book is the author of the book. When authors read their stories the experience feels a lot more intimate and reminds me that they are letting me into their lives. It was a privilege to be able to hear about this portion of Janet Mock’s life and how it contributed to the person she has become.

Each chapter flows into each other so well and no transition between different portions of her life are needed. I like how we find out more about Janet Mock through each chapter and we get to learn more about how she feels. I like how we slowly get to see her grow into herself and grow around others.

You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.

Transathon TBR

For this month I decided that I wanted to take part in my first readathon and Transathon takes place this month. There are so many books that I have by Transgender/Non-Binary authors that I want to read and this is the perfect excuse to prioritize those books. There are some prompts that I don’t have a book for yet so feel free to recommend one to me. Also feel free to tell me if I put a book in the wrong category.

The prompts and what I am reading for each prompt are as follows:

A book written by a Trans woman

Ciel by Sophie Labelle

Ciel is excited to start high school. A gender non-conforming trans kid, Ciel has a YouTube channel and dreams of getting a better camera to really make a mark. Ciel can always rely on their best friend, Stephie, a trans girl who also happens to be a huge nerd, but their friendship begins to feel distant when Stephie makes it clear she wants the fact that she’s trans to be more invisible in high school. While navigating this new friendship dynamic, Ciel is also trying to make a long-distance relationship work with their boyfriend Eirikur, who just moved back to Iceland. When Ciel befriends Liam, a new trans boy at school, things become more complicated by the minute.

A book written by a non-binary person

Madness by Z Brewer 

Brooke Danvers is pretending to be fine. She’s gotten so good at pretending that they’re letting her leave inpatient therapy. Now she just has to fake it long enough for her parents and teachers to let their guard down. This time, when she’s ready to end her life, there won’t be anyone around to stop her.

Then Brooke meets Derek. Derek is the only person who really gets what Brooke is going through, because he’s going through it too. As they start spending more time together, Brooke suddenly finds herself having something to look forward to every day and maybe even happiness.

But when Derek’s feelings for her intensify, Brooke is forced to accept that the same relationship that is bringing out the best in her might be bringing out the worst in Derek—and that Derek at his worst could be capable of real darkness. 

Rick by Alex Gino 

Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.

But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that … understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.

As they did in their groundbreaking novel George, in Rick, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world … and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.

A book written by a trans man

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie 

Being a teenager is difficult enough, but having to go through puberty whilst realising you’re in the wrong body means dealing with a whole new set of problems: bullying, self-doubt and in some cases facing a physical and medical transition.

Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.

Throughout this book, Alex will share what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness. This is an important and positive book, a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir with a broad appeal.

A book with a trans MC

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas 

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

A non-fiction trans book

I don’t have a selection for this prompt yet

A book with a non-binary MC

Ciel by Sophie Labelle

A book with multiple trans characters

Ciel by Sophie Labelle

A book with the words trans in the title

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie 

A graphic novel with a trans character

I don’t have a selection for this prompt yet

Books by Trans/Nonbinary Authors

Since it’s pride month I thought that I would create separate lists as reading suggestions for you all this month. I thought it was best to do this that way I could recommend so many authors for you to enjoy rather than only having a select few on here.

All clickable links take you a page where you can purchase the books from Eso Won Books, a Black owned bookstore in Los Angeles.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson 

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock 

In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the People.com editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.

Welcomed into the world as her parents’ firstborn son, Mock decided early on that she would be her own person—no matter what. She struggled as the smart, determined child in a deeply loving yet ill-equipped family that lacked the money, education, and resources necessary to help her thrive. Mock navigated her way through her teen years without parental guidance, but luckily, with the support of a few close friends and mentors, she emerged much stronger, ready to take on—and maybe even change—the world.

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from an early, unwavering conviction about her gender to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that saw her transitioning during the tender years of high school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world alone for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. With unflinching honesty, Mock uses her own experience to impart vital insight about the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of trans youth and brave girls like herself.

Despite the hurdles, Mock received a scholarship to college and moved to New York City, where she earned a master’s degree, enjoyed the success of an enviable career, and told no one about her past. She remained deeply guarded until she fell for a man who called her the woman of his dreams. Love fortified her with the strength to finally tell her story, enabling her to embody the undeniable power of testimony and become a fierce advocate for a marginalized and misunderstood community. A profound statement of affirmation from a courageous woman, Redefining Realness provides a whole new outlook on what it means to be a woman today, and shows as never before how to be authentic, unapologetic, and wholly yourself. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender 

From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro 

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore 

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Once a girl, always a boy Book Review

Summary: Jeremy Ivester is a transgender man. Thirty years ago, his parents welcomed him into the world as what they thought was their daughter. As a child, he preferred the toys and games our society views as masculine. He kept his hair short and wore boys’ clothing. They called him a tomboy. That’s what he called himself.

By high school, when he showed no interest in flirting, his parents thought he might be lesbian. At twenty, he wondered if he was asexual. At twenty-three, he surgically removed his breasts. A year later, he began taking the hormones that would lower his voice and give him a beard—and he announced his new name and pronouns.

Once a Girl, Always a Boy is Jeremy’s journey from childhood through coming out as transgender and eventually emerging as an advocate for the transgender community. This is not only Jeremy’s story but also that of his family, told from multiple perspectives—those of the siblings who struggled to understand the brother they once saw as a sister, and of the parents who ultimately joined him in the battle against discrimination. This is a story of acceptance in a world not quite ready to accept.

Thoughts: Thank you to Booksparks for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

I’m always worried about reading memoirs about transgender people especially when they are not written by the transgender person. Sometimes these books make me angry because of the way the people in the story get treated or because of the transphobia that is included throughout by the person writing the story. I went into this one expecting that which is what I got but what I didn’t expect was to learn.

As someone who is transgender it was nice to watch Jeremy’s family struggle to understand him. I tend to get frustrated by my family not understanding my gender or sexual identity and seeing all of Jeremy’s family react and learn gave me a new perspective. It taught me to give people some time to learn, especially the people who I know are trying and to listen to why they’re struggling with things related to my gender and sexuality. While it did show me the other side of things there were moments that I just couldn’t deal with the transphobia from the family. There is one scene in particular with Jeremy and his older brother in which the brother and Jeremy are both not aware of how Jeremy identifies and his feelings are dismissed.

I think one of my favorite parts of this book was watching as Jeremy learned about himself and the sections that were written in his voice. It was also really nice to watch Jeremy learn about himself and come to terms with each of his identities. I was able to relate to so many moments that are included in this book and loved how much of his feelings are included. It was refreshing to see how his understanding of his identity was constantly shifting and how he slowly leaned into who he is. I loved that this story was centered on Jeremy’s adult years and how so many of his coming to terms with who he is and learning about himself happens in his late 20s. It made my journey as a non-binary transgender person feel normal and let me know that it was okay to not have the answers at my age.

This was a great book to be able to read during this stay at home order because it made me feel understood. This book uplifted me in moments that I was struggling with because living at home with a family who uses my legal name and misgenders me without having an escape from it gets rough. This book was a constant reminder that I decide my identity and even when others don’t see me that way my identity remains the same.

I really enjoyed how this book was written in multiple perspectives and you got sections from Jeremy, the mom, dad, and the siblings. It was great to see so many of the same scenes through different eyes.

I recommend this to those of you who have transgender family members or I recommend this to those of you who are parents of a transgender child. For those of you who are transgender, I would caution reading this, this book is about how the transgender person needs to have grace with others and give them time to comes to terms with who you are. I felt that so much of it was how Jeremy accepted his family rather than the other way around and that felt off to me. ⁠

You can get this book starting today at Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, or look for it at your local library.