Book Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Goodreads Link: Click here
Star Rating: – Really good book.
This is my first review for a book that is part of the #DAReadathon.
Hmm… a marginalised group I don’t often read about. Try have never read about. This is my first time reading a book about a transgender person. As such, this will be a challenging review for me to write. Not because the book was difficult, but because I am so afraid I’m going to say something stupid. So let’s just get that on the table. I’m an idiot and I’m sorry if I offend anyone. Please know that I am coming from a place of inclusion and affection.
Now that is out of the way, I really did enjoy this little book. It’s an easy read, and quick to get through, but is far from simple and has little nuggets of wisdom and understanding throughout. Oh, let’s get to the synopsis …
“Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.”
Amanda has nothing, and everything to be afraid of. She’s a wonderful person. She’s kind-hearted, open, vulnerable and lovable. She’s also a complete geek, which I of course love about her. Of course, Grant likes her. Of course, she makes friends at school. However, she knows from experience, that being open about her gender makes her an immediate target of ridicule and violence. She has to constantly deny who she is. Being a transgender person is a big part of who she is. She is not simply Andrew OR Amanda. She is a product of her experiences as a person, as we all are, so having to hide who she is tears her apart.
This is a gentle book. It deals with big ideas about gender and identity. About bias, privilege and discrimination. About the male gaze and misogyny. I had some trouble with gender dysphoria, when someone feels they are not the gender they should be. It is difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea that you can feel deep inside that you are not … who you are. That is my privilege talking, isn’t it! Andrew says “The only time I feel like I have a future at all is if I imagine I’m a girl in it.” and that line really got at the heart of it for me. I cannot imagine not living my life as a woman and neither can Andrew. I may not be able to really internalize the pain of that dichotomy but I can understand how that would be excruciating.
This is a gentle book, I say that again because I did digress, and though the book deals with so many immense issues, it does so with humor, pathos and kindness. In the author’s notes at the end of the book she expresses her intention to relate the story in as “un-challenging to normative assumptions as possible”. She has made it easier for cisgender people to process and assimilate. Thank you for your graciousness, Ms. Russo. We, as a larger society, really don’t deserve it. I fear we could stand to be yelled at a little when I look around at how transgender people are treated, but thank you for telling this story in the way that you did. I appreciate it, and I hope that others will as well.
The Dumbledore’s Army Read-a-thon was created by the Read At Midnight blog in order to stimulate others to read more diverse books and authors. I am glad I started this project. It only lasts 2 weeks, but I think I’m going to continue through the month of January so I can finish all the books I put on my TBR! If I Was Your Girl was a great pick to start with! I recommend it to everyone.
Song for this book: Angel Mine by Cowboy Junkies