When a family member drops a bombshell, one expects things and life to change. A person may not always react ideally to the change, especially if they are young and sorting out their feelings. Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis explores the impact it has when African American twins Ysabel and Justin’s dad reveals that he is a transgender person and identifies as female.
Happy Families is told through the alternating chapter point of views of Ysable and Justin. The twins are living happy lives — both excel in their hobbies- jewelry making and debate team. Their parents are married and successful in their professional fields. This all changes when, as mentioned above, dad comes out as a transperson. He then moves across the state and the twins reluctantly visit him for a week.
Now, Tanita S. Davis’s book isn’t one of those happy go lucky swoonfest contemporary books, but more of a let’s learn something so we can grow up and not be jerks contemporary books, WHICH IS FINE. I like learning things, not being a jerk among them. We get a strong sense as readers of the twins’ uncomfortable, scared reaction to them coming to grips with what is now an unchangeable fact in their lives.
I liked that the reactions were not sanitized. I thought it was reasonable that Justin and Ysabel reacted by wondering what people will think of their family. How will they be treated at church? What do they call dad now? What happens to the family? Does he still love them? Happy Families is written in a way that never felt disrespectful or condescending.
Plus! Bonus! At the end of Happy Families was a glossary of terminology from GLAAD concerning the transgender community. I though the glossary was enlightening and helpful in my quest to treat all people the right way –part of which is using the terms people prefer.
In all, Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis provides a wonderful space for teens and well, adults too, to learn about transgender people. Now, this book does not speak for every single transgender person’s experience, but it’s a good starting point.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.
Other reviews of Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis:
The Book Smugglers – “a short, focused, highly important book”
The Happy Nappy Bookseller – “realistic and engaging characters”
What I Read And What I Thought – “worth reading, especially because the list of YA books featuring transgender people is very short”
Abby The Librarian – “a sensitive portrayal of a family going through some tough changes”