Transgender and intersex protagonists – are they represented in the mainstream literature yet?

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Is there still a lot of discrimination or is it just fear and dysphoria? Or is a thing of the past?

I had this idea a couple of years back after beginning to read more diversely, and with the latest coming out and worldwide publicity around Nikkietutorials, curiosity of how trans and intersex protagonists are represented in mainstream literature is back in the forefront of my mind. We even have what I think is the final season of ‘I Am Jazz’ which has just started airing and a trans character in ‘Supergirl.’ I also loved the representation in shows like ‘Pose’ and ‘The Fosters.’ Just to mention a few – so there is definitely an accepting and welcome addition of transgender and intersex representation in the mainstream media – but I wanted to explore it further and take a look at the publishing industry (and my own personal reading habits.)

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There is also the concept of ‘own voices’ books, written by transgender and intersex authors – which can be a more authentic representation of their own community and experience. I’ve read novels with leading characters who identify as transgender or intersex penned by cis authors, and I must admit it’s very hit or miss with how I enjoy the narrative. Half the time they are a tiny bit offensive or dysphoric without meaning to be. It says more about the authors’ education about this niche community that it does about someone who has actually lived through the experience. And thus, the novel reads like its demographic is skewed towards enlightening cis gendered readers. Deep discussions with members of the LGBTQIA+ community always praise the efforts and inclusion on the surface, but if you have a deep discussion with these readers, the details are often off-base.

If you search for the terms transgender or intersex when looking for your next read you will typically get a list of non-fiction titles. Socio-political or psychological focused papers, autobiographies, and erotica. Where are all the great stories that just happen to have a transgender or intersex protagonists that are fiction which are not revolved around coming out, transition, or sexual intimacy? Believe me, they are out there, you just have to really look. The only place I was able to find a decent collection of current releases are from blogs or Listopia on Goodreads. And if you compare the lists to general fiction current releases… the average transgender and intersex list sits at 100 books, the average general fiction list in anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000. Which boils down to a 4-10% representation on the current market. Which is an interesting figure because that is what psychological journals are quoting as the percentage of people identifying as transgender or intersex in the real world as a general benchmark – whether that is accurate or not today is a different debate. But it felt like a significant correlation. Looking through my own library (which is skewed by the availability of literature and available funds to purchase books) sits at approx. 5% (up from 4% in 2018) out of a 22% share of LGBTQIA+ titles.

I am definitely thankful for the changes in attitude to transgender and intersex characters. Twenty years ago it was rare to read a novel with their representation, and if they were present, they were usually treated as evil, a freak, a sex worker, or the comic relief. The ending of their storylines usually culminated in tragedy too. It was dehumanizing. The trend is definitely skewing towards greater representation, more realistic, well-rounded characters, and positively ending storylines.

I do have to say that there is a great deal of acceptance out there. And it warms my heart. People are people. Love is love. We are seeing that reflected in representation in our publishing material, film and television, and the wider community in general. Yes, there are still opposing voices, but as loud as they get, their manifesto is getting tossed out the window in favor of a more inclusive and accepting environment. And something makes it feel like we are heading for that Star Trek future.

So what does it all mean? I think is shows how society’s attitudes are changing, how that change is reflected through representation in art and culture, books and movies. It’s allowed for the discussion and importance of own voices literature. It is also opening doors for other minority groups into inclusivity. It leaves me feeling positive for how the human races collective consciousness is evolving, and how we are getting a wide array of poignant reading experiences.

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What was the last book you read with a transgender or intersex protagonist? Can you add to these titles of new and upcoming books with transgender/intersex protagonists?

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Jan – Mar 2020 Quarterly Goals

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I’m attempting the quarterly goals thing again this year, (inspired by Jenna Moreci – check out her YouTube video here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67VbahiISDo) it helped increase my productivity in 2019 – even if I was a bit lazy in posting my updates… well, posting in general. I think after doing too much of the same thing for five years now, it was feeling stale. So, I’m trying to mix it up a bit, do a slight facelift and hopefully breathe some enthusiasm back into my online activity.

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleBook worm:

I was surprised once I posted my Goodreads challenge earlier that there were no autobiographies, memoirs, or non-fiction titles; so I plan on getting back to including some of these in 2020. Again variety is the spice of life – no wonder my reading felt somewhat lacklustre.

I shall also be including some text books and reference material: mainly for professional development and feeding a curious mind.

I am also hoping to increase the number of diversity reads and novels written by Australian authors. Mainly because they are the type of books I enjoy the most, and help support my local economy,

And lastly I made little to no progress in finishing series I started years ago – got to get that TBR down.

Plus I’m still bargaining with myself that I can only buy less than half of the number of books that I read. It was torture doing this in 2019, but if forced me to actually read some of the books on my shelves. Consequently my wish list has grown exponentially, but my bank balance is greatful.

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleScribe and scribble:

2019 has been one of the better years for writing in a long time, and I plan to continue this trend in 2020. I want to at the very least get another four chapters written on my WIP. (My goal is to complete the first draft this quarter, but 4 chapters is more realistic.)

 

PrintLevelling Up:

I’m looking to add a few more feathers in my cap this year. I’m part way through a digital marketing course and want to finish it by the end of March. I also want to start something new and I’m eye off SkillShare… has anyone taken any courses from this platform? Has it provided you with practical skills that have translated in furthering your professional career?

 

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleSocial Butterfly:

Being a writer, and living in a remote location I sometimes feel like a hermit. So this quarter I want to attend at least one writer event, and one social event. I know I haven’t set the bar very high, but I’m starting slow. Plus its a guaranteed success… right?

 

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleGet creative:

I was very lazy last year and have several unfinished projects… so I want to finish something. Sew a garment, restore some furniture, renovate a room. Just one thing other than writing.

 

Fist Full of MoneyCash grab:

There is so much stuff stored around this house that is never used or no longer needed. And a good percentage of it is brand new. So I’m challenging myself to start listing items for sale. Probably on eBay. Reduce the clutter and provide a little extra pocket money.

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 08 by Casey CarlisleWork that body:

I started a new fitness regimen halfway through last year and had a small amount of success, so I’m taking it up a notch this quarter and want to start seeing some bigger results. I like how healthier eating and fitness has kept my mind alert… now I want my waistline to shrink!

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 09 by Casey CarlisleSo professional:

I also want to start expanding my digital platform. I’ve had ideas for years now but still to implement any… this quarter I plan to cease the day!

 

If I can achieve at least half I deem it a success and do a happy dance, if not I’ll have the shame of announcing it publicly and everyone will know what a lazy human being I’ve become. See you in three months for a recap and a new list of goals.

Wish me luck!! I’m also sending out creative vibes and motivation to help you reach your 2020 goals.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss…

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… and setting up a cracker of a year!

Holy Hanna! I can’t believe it is already March and this is the first blog post I’ve written for 2019… where did the beginning of the year go?

For the last two months I’ve done nothing bookish or indulged in writing. Sad face emoji. Over the holiday period it was my intention to get some much needed spring cleaning done and finally go through everything boxed up from my mother’s estate. I’ve put off the unboxing for far too long. Mum passed just over five years ago and there were always distraction and other things that took priority. But there were no excuses over the holidays and the job is well overdue. Yay for me being proactive and ticking some of the less desirable items from my to-do list. I’m patting myself on the back for this one!

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Here’s me thinking a few weeks was all that was needed. Erm… I didn’t take into account the emotional connection to objects and photos. Each day was a rollercoaster between the joys of unwrapping something I desired – like my birthday; and something triggering the loss and grief all over again. Two weeks stretched over an exhausting six weeks. My over-ambition hobbles me again *shakes fist at the sky* However the experience has left me feeling lighter, cleansed, and motivated. If not more connected to my mum.

It’s reminded me of all the things I started writing for in the first place. Flashbacks to mum’s words of encouragement. It has re-invigorated my drive. Last year was feeling like it was difficult to make any progress – even though I had been. It simply came down to nothing being finished. (That’s what you get for running too many projects at once.) But it has left this year as one where I can start crossing items off my goals list.

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It’s left me wondering if I should work less on the blog and concentrate on the professional landscape I’ve been building; or knuckle down and attempt to do both. I’m just a little concerned of burnout or overextending myself. (Like I always tend to do.) I don’t want to spend all my time at a keyboard, I value getting out and exploring the coast and Hinterland, connecting with family and friends. Guess I’ll give it a go and see how things work out. Both aspects of novel writing and blogging are fun – it’s just one is building a career, and the other is sharing the love of reading… choices.

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So now I’m back in the swing of things, and we’ll see where this journey takes me. What opportunities I can create… and hopefully the regular schedule of blog posts won’t suffer.

In the meantime, happy reading and lots of positive and creative vibes to those on their own writing journey.

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Frustrating reviews

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I love reading book reviews – getting insights into books before I buy, getting recommendations… but there are some reviews that I have to skip… lest I die from excessive eye-rolling.

Without ranting or bashing how people review their favourite reads – because it’s a free country and you do you… more power to you. But here are my pet peeves with some of the reviews I’ve seen in my feed that keep me scrolling past:

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Skip.

If I want a summary of the book, I can read the blurb, or visit Goodreads. And if I should be so compelled to read the subject of your review, I want to know why. How about you feed me some nuggets of wisdom.

Frustrating reviews Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle This is just lazy. And insulting to the author. They spend years writing and honing prose for your enjoyment and you reduce a critique to broken sentences. Book reviews are mostly read by fellow lovers of the literary universe, I’m sure they don’t mind reading full sentences with correct grammar – I mean isn’t that why we read books in the first place? A little effort to add some eloquence to your opinions would be greatly appreciated. It also shows, that you know your stuff if you can write – I might take your views a little more seriously.

Frustrating reviews Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle If I go to the point of subscribing and heading to a blog to follow reviews, it’s because I’m interested in in-depth discussions, varied opinions, great recommendations. So don’t be afraid to elaborate, discuss, give examples, insights. Otherwise, stick to tweeting… How can you address characters, character development, writing style, predictability, opinion, plot line, pacing and other elements in a few short paragraphs? (No that is not a challenge) If you are going to review a book, I’d actually like a review, not a brief opinion with no critique to back it up.

Frustrating reviews Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle There the ones that rave and rave and rave about how fantastic the book is without actually saying why. Was it a relatable main character? The great action scenes? Vivid language to depict the landscape in which the novel is set? I want specifics people, not paragraphs of how excited you are.

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They seem to be the main culprits at the moment that have me grinding my teeth. But please don’t take offence to my post – it’s a guideline for the types of reviews that I like to read. It is by no means the gospel law on how to write a book review.

Comment below if you have any pet peeves from book reviews you’ve seen…

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Favourite YouTuber’s that help me write

I try not to watch a lot of YouTube – you can get caught up and suddenly the day had whizzed by and all you have been doing is laughing your guts out from hilarious dog or cat videos.

I like to get my movie trailers, book talks and reviews, some nonsensical comedy stuff, and lots of k-pop music videos when indulging in some downtime off YouTube. But there are a few channels that help my journey along while writing a novel – either with providing useful information, or sharing a similar story to my own, or just entertaining me without taking up too much of my time (so I can get back to writing.)

My favourite, hands down is Jenna Moreci. She’s witty, informative, and not afraid to tell it how it is. Cyborgs rule!

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polandbananasBOOKS sometimes has something worth watching, but I generally find Christine over-animated and shrill. But on days when you are down and low on energy, her effervescence can pick you up.

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ProblemsofaBookNerd – CeCe is pleasant and insightful, and focuses a lot on diverse reads. And while she doesn’t talk about writing per se, her critical eye on the novels she reviews gives valuable insight on aspects to look out for in my own writing. The same can be said for PeruseProject; Regan likes to read a lot of fantasy and historical fiction, and has some great insight into character development and story structure in her book reviews.

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Epic Reads do some fun skits that keep me entertained and positive – nothing like a good bookish joke to keep you in the mood for writing. Plus, you get to see news about new releases and authors.

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Little Book Owl, Catronia does book reviews, but also posts about marketing and publishing as she goes through her University studies. She has been publishing less of late, but is one of the more intelligent booktubers out there.

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Both Australian Writers’ Centre and Author Learning Center upload new content sparingly, sometimes interesting and informative, but with a more serious tone from a career writers point of view. We also get other authors giving talks and factoids about their writing journey.

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There is probably a lot more out there, but I tend not to spend too much time searching and watching videos. My resources are more through print and personal connection (and ultimately less distracting – no click bait!)

Do you have any great Channels to share that have helped you in your writing journey… I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments section 🙂

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘So Hard to Say’ by Alex Sanchez

A superb contemporary glimmering with diversity.

so-hard-to-say-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 230

From Goodreads:

When Frederick shows up at school, Xio is thrilled. The new boy is shy, cute, and definitely good boyfriend material. Before long, she pulls him into her lively circle of friends. 


Frederick knows he should be flattered by Xio’s attention. After all, she’s popular, pretty, and a lot of fun. So why can’t he stop thinking about Victor, the captain of the soccer team, instead?

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I felt ‘So Hard to Say’ was more aimed at a middle grade demographic, and in that sense, didn’t have the emotional punch I was looking for. Nor was the storyline complex. However, this novel was innocently concise and poignant. And definitely worth the read.

The narrative married perfectly with the inner voices of our protagonists Xio and Frederick. The Mexican culture that Xio brought, and the confusion and coming of age from Frederick’s story were nothing other than brilliant.

It completely captured those moments of questioning about first love, or attraction, and sexual orientation in the judgemental arena of high school. Even if you removed the aspect of Fredericks questioning his sexuality, the way he approached different friends directly translated to many friendships I had growing up – some you were friends with outside of school, some within… I liked that it showed multiple ways relationships develop throughout your childhood to teen years.

Even though it felt very innocent and stylized, it captures the issues facing our protagonists with an understated grace. This is not an angsty over dramatized account of Xio and Frederick’s life, but a great peek through their eyes with enough insight to set the scene and let you draw from your own emotions and experiences.

Xio’s inner monologue is mixed with culture and a lack of confidence that all teen girls seem to stumble through – what’s wrong with me? Why won’t he love me? I actually loved that realism about her, and her joy at embracing family and heritage.

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Frederick’s life in comparison felt sparse – but you soon realise it’s on purpose. He’s distanced many parts of his life because he’s not sure about things. It was a joy to grow with him through the novel and see him fill those empty spaces, on his way to becoming the person he is meant to be.

Xio’s closing chapter was the most touching and prophetic. I’ve had sexual and gender-diverse friends all my life and can’t imagine ever not sharing our journey together. Friendship is forever – especially when the bond is more like family than someone you happened to go to school with.

I personally learnt a lot from Xio; about Mexican culture and home life. It’s not something we get a lot of exposure to here in Australia. And the fact that the language was scattered into the dialogue was fun. Even in the end pages you get a glossary of terms that I found cool.

This is my first novel from Alex Sanchez and has definitely left me wanting to pick up more of his titles. They are short enough with a light writing style that lends to being able to complete in a day. A great book to give to a younger teen. It was educational, insightful and a cute contemporary. I’d recommend this to lovers of contemporary, diversity and simple love/friendships that can resound with you long after reading. It was certainly a pleasant surprise for me.

Overall reaction: How adorable (kinda like this panda – he’s black, he’s white, and he’s Asian.)

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘You Know Me Well’ by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

A contrary contemporary.

You Know Me Well Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.  

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This is by far my favourite book penned by David Levithan to date. I like his novels, they have interesting characters, a gay narrative, build great relationships and end in some poignant positive note. ‘You Know Me Well’ was all that and more. I will be investigating some of Nina LaCour’s titles as well and see if they stack up.

We get a young teen coming of age, laced with edgy sarcastic humour. But this time the portrayal felt more realistic to me than in many of Levithan’s other titles. And just when I was sure the direction the book would take – it shot off on a tangent. I wasn’t expecting the big Pride fest either. A little cheesy, a little overdone gayness, but had an easy flow and captured my interest from the get go – I could barely put it down. Not that its compelling, rather more engaging and heart-warming. I connected with Mark and Kate more than I have with any of the cast in Levithan’s previous novels. And it was great to have a lesbian perspective. Most of his books have been dominated with a gay male perspective – it was great to see more than one gender represented.

you-know-me-well-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleMark is an all American boy in love with his best friend. I like how he finds his sense of adventure, but never knows his destination. Kate was interesting, sensitive, yet with a strong sense of who she was. She just needed the confidence to say it out loud. To go for what she wants. And their relationship was beautiful. Instead of instalove, it took the shape of instafriends… and I have experienced that single moment of attraction to someone who has become a life-long friend. I understand the connection and feeling, and haven’t seen it represented so succinctly in a book before.

We also get a great supportive cast, each with their own path.

Honestly, it was touching to read a depiction of a friendship between gay and lesbian teens – it’s not something I see represented a lot in literature – or in real life. In the GLBT community there seems to be a segregation and cliques. It’s more common to see a gay man and his female best friend in this genre.

Overall fantastic tension and angst – almost palpable. And a sensible (happy) ending. This kind of light-hearted, pleasant read is what keeps me coming back to YA contemporary when I need a lift and an afternoon in the sunroom reading.

Overall feeling: Friendship hug!

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.