Welcome to my new feature called Forbidden Reads! Join me in celebrating our freedom to read. My goal for this feature is to highlight challenged and/or banned books from each literary audience: children, YA, and adult. Not only will I be doing a review of the book, I will also include information as to where and why the book was challenged/banned. Today I'll be reviewing one of the top 10 books most challenged books in 2015, Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin.
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.
Review: Beyond Magenta is an eye-opening, informative, revealing, and powerful book that must be read, especially in our political climate where transgendered rights are spotlighted. This book is created with an intimate, compassionate and respectful way to tell the stories of six, diverse transgender young people. The author allows the teens to tell their stories verbally and when she has been given permission, allowed to use visual profiles.
The book has a very much documentary feel to it and the teens never come across as 'subjects' but real people with all aspects of their lives with warts and all. Readers meet transgender teens with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. They hear from teens who identify fully as female or male, teens who identify as neither male nor female, and one teen who is intersex. While the teens tell their story, there are only a few times where the author interjects in italicized sentences to offer clarity whether it is giving context to a point or describing how the stories are told from the teens' facial expressions or tone. Each of these stories confirm our beliefs that there is no way to generalize the transgender experience. The photographs often include the teens before they transition, but it is not emphasized but part of the journey in finding their true identity. Beyond Magenta opens the door on the discussion of gender and sexual identity. While some maybe taken aback by its frankness, I think many readers will benefit from reading and discussing this book.
Rating: 4 stars
Why it was challenged: According to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, Beyond Magenta was challenged for the following reasons: Religious viewpoint, sex education, homosexuality, offensive, and anti-family.
Words of Caution: Sex and genitalia are discussed frankly in the teens' stories but are rarely what matters most. The hormonal changes of the body are also talked about when some of teens that undergo transition. A lot of these stories include parents who are supportive of their child though some take a lot of time to understand what being transgendered means, however there are stories where the teen and his/her/their parents are not supportive or have an active role in his/her/their lives. There is also strong language including homophobic slurs that are taunted at the teens when they were bullied in schools.
If you like this book try: Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill, Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews, and Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings