George by Alex Gino (@lxgino) #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Title George
Author Alex Gino
Genre Children’s, Contemporary, GSD (LGBT+)
Format Paperback
Page Length 215
Publication Date 25 Aug 2015
Publisher Scholastic Press
Read Dates 20-23 Aug 2017
Rating

4.436743 stars

Blurb
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her (4th grade) teacher announces their class play is going to be “Charlotte’s Web.” George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part …because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

STARK’S THOUGHTS

This is an expanded version of the review I originally posted on GR right after finishing the book. I decided to try something new and tell a little about my personal experiences in this review. Let me know what you think, do you like reviews to have a personal feel, or should I just shut up and talk about the book only?

I’m an emotional mess right now! This is a really important book that should be in every school library.

Let’s just quickly get something said and out of the way. I am not transgender, I was born a male and have always identified as one. I am a white, cis male. I would consider myself as an advocate for gender and sexuality rights. If you know me, you know I believe we should all be accepted as equal, and the differences in our character/identity/abilities should be accepted and/or celebrated. *makes a daisy chain to put in his hair*

I used to work at a project that supported children that were being sexually exploited. During this time, we worked with people that were either transitioning or questioning their gender and from a mix of sexualities. We also had a really good mix of people from different cultures, ethnicities and ‘class’ *shudders at that term*. Although I would never pretend to know exactly what it is like to go through the struggles that some of these people faced, I do believe that I have some understanding of the issues.

As well as being a white, cis male I also happen to be asexual. This means I am not sexually attracted to other people. (I do get attracted to people, but it’s an intellectual attraction rather than sexual). I knew I was asexual from a very young age (although I didn’t know it had a name), and I never really struggled with it personally. I easily accepted that girl/boyfriends were a thing that other people had, but that it wasn’t for me – I was happy just trying to be everybody’s friend. Unfortunately, there were people in my life that struggled with my sexuality and simply could not understand how someone could be asexual. For them, you were either gay or straight. I didn’t like girls, and therefore I must have been gay (they missed the point that I also didn’t like boys) and being gay deserved to be punished with severe daily beatings that regularly escalated to attempted murder. So, I do know what it is like to not be accepted for who you are, and to be persecuted for things that are completely natural and out of your control.

Yea, alright Stark, but what does this have to do with books?! TALK ABOUT BOOKS ALREADY! OK, OK, I just wanted to set up why it is that I actively try and seek out books that tackle issues of inequality. Mainly just because it makes my hippy heart warm to read about people overcoming such wrongs. Yea, very nice, we’ll sing kumbaya around the campfire tonight, but what about this book?! Oh, this book – yea, it’s bloody marvellous it is.

George is a 10yr old transgender girl. Other people see George as a 10 year old boy. George has a burning desire to play Charlotte in the school play of Charlotte’s Web, partly because who doesn’t want to play a lead role amiright?! and partly in order to show other people that she is a girl, and not the boy everyone keeps identifying her as being.

I loved the story – even though it did open with a pretty major spoiler for Charlotte’s Web! The balance between sadness and heart-warming moments was perfect. There are times when I just wanted to scream ”She’s not a he. Stop calling her a he!” and times that smiled a lot and my face got wet. This part in particular really got me in the feels:

Kelly shrugged. “That’s cool. If you want to be Charlotte, you should try out for Charlotte. You make such a big deal out of everything. Who cares if you’re not really a girl?”
George’s stomach dropped. She cared. Tons.

What I really like about this story is that it isn’t trying to preach to anyone. The closest I felt this got to preaching is the following:

”But that’s not fair!” Kelly was indignant. “You didn’t steal them! What right does she have to take them from you?”
“Sometimes transgender people don’t get rights.” George had read on the Internet about transgender people being treated unfairly.

The rest of the time we are simply following George on her struggle with how everyone keeps treating her as a boy and the battle she has with how to challenge the issue with the people around her that are ignorant to the fact there even is an issue. This is the correct way to educate people – show the struggles people face, and then show how we (as a wider society) can deal with the issue.

One of my favourite lines comes from the school principal:

”Well, you can’t control who your children are, but you can certainly support them, am I right?”

YES! Yes Principal Maldonado, you are right. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s a parent’s duty to support their child to be whoever they are. It is the duty of every parent, family member, and adult working with children to empower them to become the best person they can be. A major part of that is to break down the stigmas attached to gender roles, sexuality, ethnicity and abilities and to create an environment where children can grow up to be free to be themselves – whatever shape or colour that happens to be. I promise, nothing bad will come from us doing this – I am certain of it.

Oh Kelly. How wonderful you are. Kelly is George’s best friend and does everything right to support George in coming out as trans. I really hope when they get older that George can look back and appreciate even more how much Kelly did for her. Yes, I am aware that they are fictional characters but THEY WERE REAL TO ME! I am also definitely absolutely certain that there will be a real life George and a Kelly out there right now.

Read this book. Just read it. It’s a super quick and easy read. But be warned, it’s probably not best to read it whilst on a really busy train. There is a limit to how many times you can pretend you just have something in your eye when there is an old woman sat across from you giving you a sympathetic smile. I would imagine…

Anyway, I’m off to reread Charlotte’s Web. Peace and Love.

LINKSGoodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

7 Comments

  1. Oh Stark- I think the addition of your personal experience and background made this review all the more impactful. Bit emotional, too, here, so I am but whatever, I blame being tired due to autumn and I should have been born a bear so I can go into hibernation.
    No, truly though- you have a ton of heart and admire that about you.

    I think UK is truly a leader in raising awareness in all things relating to people. Rights, mental health, sexuality… a lot of countries have a lot to learn from UK in that area I think. Coming from Estonia, I can’t EVER remember any of those issues talked about.. whether disability, mental health, sexuality, etc- it was all there, of course!, but no one did anything to address the Stigma in the room… no one did everything to make people feel all right about themselves and instead everything was just shrugged off and brushed under a rug.
    Having done research (and indirectly working) in the area which involves all areas of social care and relating, I can honestly say I have not come across more person focused drive for culture and awareness than the one that UK promotes!

    Going back to the review and book- aren’t they just so important already just to make someone see and understand things from another perspective? I know, this is why most of us read anyway, and I know a few people who actively focus their attention on books that address any kind of social issues. Maybe it’s time I made more time for such as well? If all the reviews with personal experiences went out into the world for books like this- isn’t this an awareness raisingg campaign in itself?!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! 🙂
      It’s really good to hear that you see how the UK is one of the leading countries with such important issues. I think because I grew up and have always lived in the UK it’s difficult to see just how free people are here. It’s great to have a reminder every now and then.
      I think one of the major challenges for ‘diverse’ books with adults is that the people likely to read them are probably already to converted. That’s why I believe it’s important to have such things in schools, in children’s homes and ensure they are read by children. I believe no child is born racist or homophobic or with any other form of hate. They learn such things from the environment they are in. Hopefully books like this will really help to counteract some of that learnt behaviour.
      Anyway, let me know if you do give a read. As well as tackling an important issue, it’s also a really heart warming coming of age story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A very moving review for what is obviously a fantastic book! I hate how some people scoff at the idea of children identifying as transgender. You hear stupid things like “They’re too young to know! They’re confused!” Why should they be confused? Age has nothing to do with knowing who you are. I think it’s so, so important for children to be supported whatever they identify as. I think you summed it up perfectly with “It is the duty of every parent, family member, and adult working with children to empower them to become the best person they can be.” I find a lot of adults are good at TELLING a child what’s best for them, but are crap at giving that child the confidence and support they need to pursue what THEY think is best for them.
    I’m so sorry to hear about your own experiences with ignorant individuals. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to be persecuted for simply being you. The world would be a much happier place if people just accepted others regardless of their sexuality and identifying gender.
    Great review! Once I’m a bit more settled, I’m definitely gonna check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you liked the review.
      I completely agree with what you say. I think sometimes adults feel like because children need us to protect them, that there is nothing we can learn from them. I find children to be the most honest and complex people of all. I think there’s a little too much of us telling children how they should be.
      I hope you enjoy the book if you choose to read it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your personal background about why the story affected you the way it did! I tend to add personal bits to my blog posts, too, and I think that is one of the things that makes a blog interesting. I mean, who wants to read the same review again and again for the same book on each blog? There has to be something different to make people continue to read and come back.

    I have George. A blogger sent it to me when she was clearing out her book shelves for moving house. As soon as I finish with it I am going to donate it to a local non-profit daycare that also does after school programs for older siblings. I cannot wait to read it, especially after reading your review. I came from an odd family in that my mother was an aerospace engineer and my father was a secretary (a bit if a career gender swap back in the ’50s and ’60s), anyway I was raised what I call “gender freerange” and although it wasn’t too big of a deal in my city school, when we moved to the country when I was ten I got beat up a couple of times. From reading your review I know this book will have a special meaning for me, too.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I hope you enjoy the story. It sounds like one you may be able to connect with.
      I love that you’ll donate t to a daycare! I’ve just been able to help the author fund for this to be sent to all public elementary school in Wichita (as they’ve tried to ban it!). The more kids reading this, the better! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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