More Happy Than Not (2015) and History Is All You Left Me (2017) by gay YA author, Adam Silvera, are a perfect pair. Featuring realistic gay protagonists, they confront themes crucial to older YA readers including identity, sexuality, love, and loss. Silvera’s representation of mental illness is unflinchingly honest and raw. I may not be able to bid you “happy reading”, but I hope you will find Silvera’s writing as powerful as I did.
TITLE: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me
AUTHOR & ARTIST: Ellen Forney
RELEASE DATE: November 6, 2012
GENRE: Adult Graphic Memoir
PAGE COUNT: 256
In this intimate and informative graphic memoir, comic artist Ellen Forney tells her story of battling bipolar disorder. Along the way, she delves into the origins and issues of the “crazy artist” stereotype, and rewrites her own identity as a creator with mental illness. Most of all, Marbles is for readers who want insight into the long-term challenges of living with bipolar disorder.
This year, I have enjoyed reading more representations of mental illness in adult and YA books. I love when these narratives contribute to breaking down stigmas, and validating real experiences. As a children’s book lover, I was curious to research what picture books are available for young readers struggling to understand a family member’s depression.
TITLE: It Ends With Us
AUTHOR: Colleen Hoover
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster UK
RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2016
GENRE: Contemporary Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 376
It Ends With Us is a powerfully moving novel about domestic abuse. It educates readers on the self-delusions and self-blame that perpetuate the abusive cycle, as well as the financial and family factors that sometimes make separation impossible. For a book with such a light and accessible tone, It Ends With Us took me on a dark emotional journey that resonated long after reading. This is a necessary book that makes difficult discussions accessible to our generation. Continue reading
TITLE: The Camera My Mother Gave Me
AUTHOR: Susanna Kaysen
RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2001
GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir
PAGE COUNT: 149
In this soul-bearing memoir by the author of Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen chronicles her relationship with her vagina. When this under-appreciated part of her anatomy starts to hurt, destroying her sex life, her vagina suddenly becomes the centre of her universe. Susanna is forced to analyse her new relationships with emotional abuse and chronic pain, and how all this impacts her identity as a woman… in a nutshell, everything you’re not supposed to talk about in public.
TITLE: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
EDITOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: Susan Kuklin
PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press
RELEASE DATE: February 11, 2014
GENRE: Young Adult Nonfiction, LGBTQIA
PAGE COUNT: 192
Through six short memoirs transcribed from interviews, Beyond Magenta explores what it’s like to come of age as a trans-spectrum teen. A crucial lesson this book teaches is to see gender and sexuality as something with infinite colourful shades. To really know someone’s story, you have to be humble and open-hearted enough to listen to them tell it in their own words.
TITLE: Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation
EDITORS: Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman
PUBLISHER: Seal Press
RELEASE DATE: August 21, 2010
GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir, LGBTQI+
PAGE COUNT: 304
The second gender-bending anthology edited by Kate Bornstein brings together an extraordinary range of trans-spectrum creators. This book celebrates diverse LGBTQI+ experiences, while encouraging readers to take a long, hard look at their society’s gender laws.
Instead of looking to the binaries for answers – male/female, femininity/masculinity, sex/gender – I’ve decided to take my body back for myself – for me to shape, show off, love and dress and play. But above all, for me to name – Transliteration by Francisco Fernández
In 2016, I broke out of my reading rut and found some new favourites. Are any of these your favourites? I’d love to hear about the highlights of your year in the comments below!
TITLE: Symptoms of Being Human
AUTHOR: Jeff Garvin
PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray
RELEASE DATE: February 2, 2016
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, LGBTQI+
PAGE COUNT: 352
For the purpose of this review, I will use the gender neutral pronoun “they” when referring to protagonist Riley, to acknowledge the non-binary nature of Riley’s gender identity.
Symptoms of Being Human is a timely novel for young adults. Our protagonist, Riley, is gender fluid, meaning their gender identity moves along a spectrum between male and female. This book explores Riley’s identity on multiple platforms, and how they learn to express themselves authentically despite fear of violent backlash. While far from perfect, this book should inspire important discussions. Continue reading