For some children, borrowing these titles may lead them to see themselves or familiar people depicted on the page. It may be a way for them to understand or process their feelings or thoughts or simply have a main character with whom they can identify. In other cases, it can help children empathize with others with a different point of view than they do and reassure them that it’s perfectly normal for different children and people who are all the same.
Also, we have it on good authority that these are very good books with dramatic suspense, well-developed characters, and clever dialogue. So, let’s look at this list and pick out a book that we think you will enjoy. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this blog and learn some of the books you ought to read about gender and sexuality.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This fictional dystopian novel tells the story of environmental disaster and a declining birth rate that leads to a second American Civil War. This also leads to the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that imposes rigid social roles and enslaves the few remaining people with foetus who are still “fertile”.
The protagonist Offred is one of these women, a maid who must bear children for one of Gilead’s commanders. Deprived of her husband, her child, her freedom, and even her name, Offred clings to her memories and her will to survive. With the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the state of America is giving off very like The Handmaid’s Tale right now.
2. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
First published in 1993, this novel, which won the American Library Association Gay & Lesbian Book Award and the Lambda Literary Award, was a pioneering work in gender exploration. Set in the often repressive 1950s, the novel tells the story of Jess, who is committed to a mental hospital by her parents after being caught trying on her father’s clothes.
Publishers Weekly called it “captivating,” while Book Riot described it as “a classic novel that explores butch identity and the blurred lines between male and female.” Alison Bechdel says, “Stone Butch Blues has probably touched your life, even if you haven’t read it yet,” while the Village Voice praises Feinberg for “giving legs to the word ‘transgender. Maybe it’s time to use your legs to head to your local bookstore and buy a copy of the novel that will forever change your perception.
3. The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara
This book was named a 2018 Recommended Book of the Year by Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal, The Millions, Southern Living, Bustle, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Nylon, Mashable, Library Journal, and Thrillist, and called “vividly imagined” by The New York Times Book Review, Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties became an instant classic of the genre upon its release last year.
The novel, which explores the life of a transgender teen (based on Angie Xtravaganza) who falls in love and creates a space for herself, inspired an NYT critic who raved about how “you… be struck by the Xtravaganzas’ strength and determination, their vibrant spirit and humor, their creativity, their sense of beauty and their ability to give and receive love.”
And while many critics praise the novel’s dynamism and power, Nami Mun, author of Miles From Nowhere, notes, “Beneath the dirt and glitter, The House of Impossible Beauties quietly tells of necessity and challenge, of love and death, of characters suffering to be seen and to be alive in a world that offers them only rejection and violence.”
4. The Book of Flora by Meg Elison
The final installment in Elison’s Road to Nowhere trilogy is set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco and has won over even the harshest critics. Publishers Weekly notes in its starred review that The Book of Flora “expands its framework, from reproductive rights to gender binarities and story consequences.” Locus Magazine agrees: “What sets the Road to Nowhere trilogy apart from other literary pandemics is the way Elison frames her story around reproductive rights, gender identity, and sexuality.”
Booklist says, “The shocking ending will shake readers and cause them to reconsider their knowledge of gender identity and trauma.” You can see our reaction here! It tops our list as Elison explores themes such as feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and the commercialization and state control of women’s bodies throughout the novel. And (though we’ll never spoiler!) the ending is that of eternity. Through the lens of an artfully crafted dystopia and a brilliant protagonist in Flora, Meg Elison demonstrates her incredible talent, and this book is proof.
Sound off in the comments section below and tell us what you want to read next and if you want to read more about books on gender identity and sexuality.