This week the Eleventh Stack blog is celebrating Pittsburgh’s Pride Week with a series of posts about the Library’s LGBTQ/QUILTBAG resources. Although any time of year is a good time to read LGBTQ literature and history, this week is very special to many of our readers and patrons. We hope you enjoy our efforts.
I spent most of this past spring book-talking Beautiful Music for Ugly Children to anyone who would stand still for five seconds. It’s a wonderful novel about music, friendship, and being openly transgender in an urban/suburban environment. The protagonist, Gabe, has a radio show, two terrific best friends (one of whom might be something more), and the chance to show off his DJ chops at a summer music festival contest. Because it’s not a perfect world, he’s also got the same kinds of problems real transgender folks have outside of novels: consistent misgendering, bigotry, bullying (IRL and cyber), and hate crime attacks.
Normally a book reviewer would put a “but” there, as in “but it all works out in the end” or “but Gabe’s tormentors have a change of heart.” Kirstin Cronn-Mills, the author, gets bonus librarian points for saving me from those “buts,” neither of which are realistic. And when I’m not reading about vampires, werewolves, or selkies, I prefer my fiction realistic.
Maybe that’s because I (mostly) read fiction to give my empathy muscles a good workout. It’s a real thing that can happen, says science. Besides, it gets old reading stories about people who look like me, and who have had experiences like mine. I want to know what life is like for the people in my neighborhood: what lifts them up, what their struggles and stories are, and so on. I don’t think I can grow if I’m staring in the mirror all the time, and I’d like to grow as much as possible.
Fiction almost always leads me back to non-fiction, because I want to see how the things I learn from novels play out in the real world. And what a wonderfully wide, inclusive world it is. Examples:
Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders (biography)
Redefining Realness (memoir)
Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community (consumer health)
A People Stronger: The Collectivization of MSM and TG Groups in India (political activism)
“You’ve Changed”: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity (scholarship)
Transgender History (history)
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (personal essays, including the voices of people of color)
From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ (religion)
Queering the Popular Pitch (musicology)
Troubling the Line (poetry, on order – keep an eye on the catalog!)
There’s also a lot of material available for family, friends, and neighbors who would like to understand the trans community better. Here’s a small sample:
Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue
Transgender Explained: For Those Who Are Not
Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender Non-conforming Children
Transgender Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy
Helping Your Transgender Teen: A Guide for Parents
It’s a beautiful thing, all that information at your fingertips.
I’m proud that Pride can last all year long, with the right reading material. I love that the power to expand our view of the world around us is in our own hands. And I hope that you will consider checking out one of these titles, and/or asking your local librarian for other suggestions. We like meeting new people, and we want to make sure that everyone in our community feels respected, represented, and–most importantly–welcome to walk through our doors anytime.