I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.George by Alex Gino
Published by Scholastic Press on August 25th 2015
Genres: Bullying, Family & Relationships, Friendship, LGBT, Middle Grade
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BE WHO YOU ARE
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
As a feminist and a women’s studies major, I’ve read stories about adults who are transgender and who struggled who reach a point in their lives where they are truly happy with themselves. In fact, I have a very close friend from graduate school who is transgender, and who is still leaning to accept himself to this day. It is not an easy process especially in a complex world such as the one which we currently live in. However, adults are not the only ones who struggle with these types of issues. In fact, the questions which these adults often ask themselves began at a much younger age but sadly there is not always a way for them to gain a better understanding of themselves or for them to realize that they are not alone in this struggle. Technology has helped bridge some of these gaps for young transgender individuals but there is still a need for more. And this is where a book like George by Alex Gino with its unforgettable tagline “Be Who You Are” comes into play.
George is a middle-grade read where the main character is a fourth grader who was born a boy named George but is really a girl named Melissa. When she looks at herself, she is not comfortable with what she sees, and she is not comfortable with what everyone else sees either but she doesn’t know exactly to tell them. Everyone else sees her a boy, and believes that she should be doing “boy things” and they do not understand when she does not want to participate in those types of activities. She also knows that she can’t do some of the “girl things” because by being perceived as a boy doing “girl things” (such as hopscotch), she will get teased. Yet, she is already getting teased because she is not living up to preconceived social-norms of being a young boy in elementary school. She also wants nothing more than to be cast as the character of Charlotte in her school’s play version of Charlotte’s Web but she is told that she can’t be Charlotte as that is a girl’s part to play. As a character, Melissa is really stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it really makes you feel for her. I wanted nothing more for this character than for her to be happy and for her to feel comfortable in her own skin.
Much of the emotion that I was feeling for the character of Melissa came from the way in which the author Alex Gino wrote for her. As an adult, I could connect with the character of Melissa, attempt to understand what she was going through, and have the desire to want to make it better for her and for those like her in the real world. I also understood that there is no one perfect way in which to do this – sometimes the best way is just to be there for someone and let them know that you are there to listen to them as a friend and as an ally. I feel that the intended audience would also be able to feel the same type of impact which I felt from George. In fact, I truly hope that the intended audience has the same type of feeling that I have when I think about this book because if they do, I think we are heading in the right direction. A book like this can help fill some of the missing gaps for all types of readers. It can also educate without being overly political but instead be a helping hand for those who are searching for answers. Admittedly, it worries me that people are going to disregard George because of the subject matter. To me, that is one of the worst things that could happen as I really feel that this book could be a book that truly helps a young child or perhaps a struggling parent or educator, when they need it the most.
Trust me, this is a book that you need in to your life, and I applaud Alex Gino for creating her, and sharing their gift with the rest of us.