With its brilliant prose and evocative writing, If I Was Your Girl helps us better understand the life and struggles of a trans person.
Note: If I Was Your Girl is the first widely distributed trans YA book by a trans woman.
I picked up If I was Your Girl on an impulse. After finishing 5 books in January, which is undoubtedly one of my best monthly records, I was going through a slump in February. I picked up Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter and halfway through the ~550 pages book, I lost all my will to carry on. It just didn’t feel right and I wasted a few more days in trying to convince myself to read it. And then since Valentine’s Day was just round the corner, Goodreads asked me to take a look at its collection of Romance books. Being an overtly emotional person, I’d expect myself to love the romance genre, alas, the typical boy meets girl story has been done to death and it is so fucking predictable, arrrggghhhh! But sneaky Goodreads showed me a section called Love is Love. And of course, that caught my fancy. When it is Queer books, I’m definitely interested in love stories. Partly because the narrative is way more interesting and partly because being a straight heterosexual woman, I am always on the lookout for books that will help me understand other genders better.
Hence, when I read the blurb of If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, I knew I had to read it.
Amanda changed schools and has come to live with her father. She is 18 and has found a bunch of good friends in her new school. She falls in love with Grant and till this point everything seems hunky dory. But there’s a complication. You see, Amanda was born as Andrew and has transitioned to a woman just a year ago. How does she deal with this secret? Can she tell anyone about it? How will they react if and when when they know about it?
Helps Us Better Understand The Struggles Of A Trans Person
The book moves between the current period in Amanda’s life to other points of her life. When she was 12, when she was 16 or even when she was an 8-year-old boy. This was actually quite a brilliant way to explain to the reader how the mind of a trans person might work ever since they start understanding gender. However, there is an author’s note given at the end of the book that says that she has shown Amanda’s life in the ‘simplest’ possible way under such circumstances in order to explain the life and struggles of a trans person in a simplified manner to people who might not have much idea about it.
She goes on to say that Amanda’s case was clear cut as she knew ever since she was a child that she felt like a girl inside. She’d constantly dream of growing up magically to become a woman and when she couldn’t take her body and the external environment going against her, she simply couldn’t think of carrying on anymore. Hence, Amanda was at least sure in that respect which the author emphasizes might not be the case with many people.
Another awesome fact about the book?
The writer herself is a trans woman who transitioned in 2013. And the cover model of the book is a trans woman as well. As one of the members of my online book club mentioned, this is definitely an instance of publishing done right.
Through brilliant prose, the author makes us understand the struggles of a person undergoing gender identity disorder
But leaving aside these technicalities, lets come to the actual book. Well, the moment you dive into it, you do not want to come out till the time you’re done reading the whole story. It is like the author makes you crawl under the skin of the protagonist and experience her reality. In that respect, I’d say it is a must read, especially for straight, cis-gendered people because sometimes, it is difficult for us to fathom what a person with gender identities different than ours might be going through.
When I was younger, I remember a friend’s aunt going through a transition to become male. I hadn’t met him but going by the stories of other friends, it wasn’t quite clear to me why someone would be doing that? A lot of you might be knowing about the hugely talented Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. Towards the end of his life, Ritu was going through a transition to become female but he couldn’t survive the complications of the surgeries. Rituparno was known to attend parties in women’s clothes, thus inviting snickers and raised eyebrows within the people present there. Towards the end of his life, he was making the so-called ‘bold’ movies with LGBT themes. This was the means to his self expression in a society like India where gender and sexuality are still not openly discussed and where we’re still fighting to make homosexuality legal. Gender is not a binary concept, neither is the male and the female identity so clearly dichotomous. Gender is very much a fluid concept but our society at every point tries to convince us otherwise.
As the author writes in her note:
“There is no wrong way to express and embody your most authentic self! You are beautiful, and you deserve to have your body and identity and agency respected.”
Hence, from that aspect this is a must read.
Not only the theme, even the prose is brilliantly evocative and engaging
The story unfolds naturally while the flow of effortlessly beautiful language makes the story simply sail through. I mean I really do not know how to do justice to the writing because it was exquisite but I was so engrossed with the other unknown facets that I might have been talking more about those than the actual writing and story. Sample a few beautiful lines:
“I wished I could walk up into the sky and live on some distant planet, far away from the things I was afraid of. I wondered if joy could ever be felt by itself without being tainted with fear and confusion, or if some level of misery was a universal constant, like the speed of light.”
And these lines which made so much of rationale that perhaps I’ll never forget them:
“Homophobes think about gay sex all the time because they wanna have it. They insist being gay is a choice because every single day they have to choose not to have the kind of sex they want. Homophobes are super gay.”
Lines like these with which I could so identify:
“I thought about how every person could hold two truths inside of them, how impossible it felt sometimes to have your insides and outsides aligned.”
And the last lines that make you tear up and laugh and nod your head all at the same time. But I won’t give it away because it might be a potential spoiler.
All I can tell you is that do yourself a favor and go read this amazing book ASAP!