Trans Reads for Trans Awareness Week
By Rhys Wright, Amy Blay, Shan Heyworth and Rosie Green
With Transgender Awareness Week here once again, it’s the perfect time to add some books by transgender authors to your TBR list. If you’re interested in reading more books that centre transgender perspectives, here are some of our recommendations.
Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin
The apocalypse novel lends itself well to social commentary, and that’s especially true when it comes to gender. But, when it comes to depicting transgender people in apocalypse stories, they’re often either misrepresented or totally absent. That can’t be said of Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt, which gives the apocalypse novel a long overdue transgender and non-binary perspective.
Fran and Beth are two transgender women, scavenging through post-apocalyptic America after a testosterone-fuelled plague has turned most of the male population into zombies – an event known as T-Day. While escaping armed gangs of TERFs (trans-exclusive radical feminists) and hunting down any feral zombies in their path, the two of them must do all they can to make a life for themselves in a hostile world.
Manhunt is the kind of transgressive horror novel that challenges the marginalisation of transgender voices in both fiction and real-world society. Felker-Martin renders her characters with desire, fear, anxiety and an unapologetically trans-affirmative outlook that’s refreshing to read. Tying together gruesome body horror, sardonic humour and rip-roaring action, Manhunt is a transgender splatter horror that couldn’t be any more timely.
The Borrow a Boyfriend Club by Page Powars
Need a prom date? Want to impress your friends? Make your ex jealous? Just call The Borrow a Boyfriend Club, whose charming members rent themselves out to students.
Transgender teen Noah Byrd desperately wants to join the club; in his eyes, it’s the best way to prove to his classmates, his parents and himself that he’s “one of the guys.” But after a disastrous interview, Noah strikes a deal with Asher – the club’s prickly (but attractive) president – in exchange for a second chance to prove himself.
There’s just one problem… While navigating the ups and downs of high school, figuring out their own identities and managing a top-secret boyfriend-renting scheme, Noah and Asher’s growing chemistry begins to risk breaking the club’s most important rule: no real boyfriends allowed.
Everyone loves a feel-good romcom, but Powars’ debut novel puts a spin on the classic tropes by placing a transgender main character at the heart of it all. Packed with a cast of authentic, complex characters, with a dash of enemies-to-lovers and found family, Powars took inspiration from his own experiences growing up transgender when writing this joyful coming-of-age story.
Noah’s journey of finding his place, falling in love and accepting himself makes The Borrow a Boyfriend Club a truly heartwarming book that is sure to bring a smile to your face.
The Queens of Sarmiento Park by Camila Sosa Villada
After achieving great success in the Spanish-speaking world, Camila Sosa Villada’s 2019 debut novel Las Malas was published in the UK 2022 as The Queens of Sarmiento Park (published as Bad Girls in the US). Villada draws on her own experiences as a travesti in Argentina in this work of autofiction imbued with magical realism.
The novel traces Camila’s coming-of-age journey, in which she joins 178-year-old Auntie Encarna and her group of sex workers in Sarmiento Park, Córdoba. Their individual stories are woven together, including tales of headless men and travestis who turn into birds and wolves. One night, they rescue an abandoned baby boy, who they welcome into their family of outcasts.
Villada highlights the experiences, identity and perspective of Argentina’s transfeminine communities, rejecting homogenous Western conceptions of transgender identity. This attitude is reflected in Villada’s reclamation of the word travesti, a word traditionally used as an insult, but which she prefers to terms which are removed from her culture and experience, such as “transgender woman.”
The Queens of Sarmiento Park doesn’t shy away from the gritty, violent and painful; the transgender community is faced with constant threats from their environment. However, they find refuge in Auntie Encarna’s pink house, and in the community and family they have found in each other. Kit Maude’s translation beautifully conveys the magic, pain and hope in Villada’s powerful and poetic writing.
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
Presented as a manuscript alleging that legendary English thief Jack Sheppard was a transgender man, annotated by the historian who discovered it, Confessions of the Fox is an immersive and reflective story that follows Jack’s experiences through 18th-century London.
While footnotes provide historical context and theory, they frequently digress from the narrative into a story of the historian’s own life – including the process of publishing the manuscript, his recent breakup and his own experiences of being transgender – giving greater depth to the exploration of Jack’s life.
Rosenberg presents a fascinating picture of gender and transness in an era before the words we use to describe these concepts existed. Jack’s relationship with gender is portrayed in a compelling way, from the first moments of gender euphoria when Bess refers to him as a “handsome boy,” to the relief top surgery gives him and the effect a mysterious drug has on his body.
While the book provides lots to reflect on, it is also a fast-paced mystery that takes you on a thrilling tour of 18th century London – from sex, violence and crime, to the effects of colonialism – showcasing a diversity that is often ignored in historical fiction.
Fun and fascinating, this thrilling story of gender, crime and claiming your own story is a great read for Trans Awareness Week and all year round.