I’m doing the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and you should, too! You could always start it next year, who’s to stop you? (Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

book riot

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out.”

  • Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender.

shes-not-there

She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders; Jennifer Finney Boylan.

This is a memoir by Jennifer Boylan, who is transgender.

It’s pretty impossible to understand being transgender when you’re cisgender. When your body matches what you are, you don’t question it. I’m not sure when I realized I was a girl–that sort of thing happens pretty young–though I do recall a rejection of pink, ruffles, and flowers. I’m still not sold on pink, but I enjoy flowers and the occasional ruffle. And I recall the strangeness of puberty, where I experience painful growth spurts, my clothes never fit, and I was constantly bumping into things. Full of hormones and in an unfamiliar body–everyone goes through that, more or less. And perhaps that’s a little like being trans. Certainly, Boylan mentions, starting hormones is basically puberty–a new changing body, emotional surges, and a sense of discovery. She just got to have her puberty in her forties.

This is the story of her journey, which can’t be generalized, but does offer some insight. Boylan struggled with how the people around her would feel, with what she would lose by finally actually becoming on the outside what she always felt inside. And it’s a tough decision, both for her and her loved ones. There’s an afterword from her best friend that offers another insight on the other side of her life, too. It’s complicated, the search for identity, but each person’s path has something to guide you on your own journey, if you pay attention.

  • Read a book originally published in the decade you were born.

remains-of-the-day

The Remains of the Day; Kazuro Ishiguro

I was born in the 80s, and this book was published in 1989.

This is a story about the past, and the legacy we leave behind. Stevens was a butler for Lord Darlington, serving this great man for thirty years, part of a larger political machine. But now he works for an American businessman, who purchased the hall and hired Stevens as part of his English ‘experience.’ Stevens isn’t quite what he used to be, so when his employer offers the use of a car and a vacation, he decides to seek out an old co-worker, a housekeeper who might just fill in the gap. Along the way to meet her, he travels more through his memories than the miles, musing on past relationships, triumphs at his work, personal suffering, and the meaning of dignity.

Not a lot happens in this book. Stevens is stuck in his past, returning to incidents again and again, and he’s terrible at speaking his mind. His sense of reserve is so strong, especially where his feelings are concerned, that it’s amazing he ever gets anything done–but of course, he really doesn’t. I had difficulty holding my attention to this meandering story, and it ends so abruptly and purposelessly that it didn’t feel much worth the effort.

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About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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