Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Families

Davis, Tanita S. 2012. HAPPY FAMILIES. New York, NY: Random House, Inc. ISBN 9780375869662 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]

Trangender individuals are often forgotten in discussions of LGBT issues.  Happy Families is the story of a daughter and son coming to grips with a transgender father.  Davis approaches this hot button topic in a classroom friendly manner.

Ysabel and Justin are twins in their sophomore year of high school.   At the beginning of the story Justin is thriving academically, and Ysabel’s art is getting a great deal of attention.  This all quickly dissolves when their father chooses to come out as transgender.

Chapter narration alternates between Justin and Ysabel.  Each twin handles the feelings of betrayal, anger, confusion, then eventually understanding, and forgiveness differently.  Davis carefully navigates through the difficult issues presented in the book with tenderness.

There is no judgment as the twins express their understandable emotions.  Then when they come to accept and appreciate their father’s new life, it feels natural without being overly didactic.  Many teenagers seek literature that explores such issues, but this novel works just as well for those who seek an engaging story about family dynamics. 

LGBT issues are in the forefront of our media and political discussions.  Teens should have the opportunity to find such issues relatable.  LGBT literature provides that opportunity and can lead the way to thoughtful and respectful discussions.

Other books about transgender and LGBT issues:
Wittlinger, Ellen. PARROTFISH.

By Emily Fultz

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