Redefining Realness–Janet Mock


For those who do not know, Janet Mock is a well known trans activist. You may have seen her on various news and talk programs. This is her autobiography, the story of her childhood through her transition in young adulthood, mostly.

She had a hell of a life, let me tell you. She struggled against her dad’s resistance to her feminine side, of course, but she had bigger issues. Her parents divorced and she spent part of her life in Hawaii with her mom before being sent to her dad in California. He got addicted to crack cocaine and her stepbrother molested her repeatedly. It got better when they moved to Texas and her dad’s female relatives were more accepting of her feminine preferences.

When she was sent back to Hawaii, all was well for a while. And then her mom got involved with a meth user and became addicted to meth as well.

Janet found some very unpleasant but resourceful ways to pay for her hormone treatments and her eventual surgery.

Her mom eventually got clean and they got their life back together, but it was still a hard, tough road.

What makes this book so lovely is that she has such a delicate, careful and nuanced hand when she writes. These are delicate topics, all of them–her gender identity and medical interventions, her family issues, the drug issues, the sexual abuse, the poverty–and she handles them all with scrupulously fair and sometimes brutal honesty without losing her thoughtful tone.

She is a model for how to write about difficult topics. I recommend this book for anyone who has an interest in trans people and their lives.



An Obedient Father–Akhil Sharma


One word summary: Intense.

This book is told from two main viewpoints. The first is the titular father. At the open of the book he seems like a reasonably average man, one who engages in some minor bribery as part of the job he does fairly poorly, but one that likes to be nice to his granddaughter who lives with him.

By the end of the first section, that ideal is shattered as he touches that granddaughter inappropriately.

When the book switches to his daughter’s viewpoint, you find out that this isn’t the first time he’s sexually assaulted a child.

The book unfolds with him trying to get ahead in the world by helping his boss run for political office while his daughter relives the abuse she suffered at his hands and tries to prevent it from happening to her daughter. ¬†You can see her frustration and anger because there is no place for her to go, no other way for her and her daughter to live, so she’s trapped with her abuser.

She uses her father’s guilt over what he did to her and her daughter–and he is guilty, but not enough to stop–to get additional money and concessions from him to improve their lives.

In the end, there are no winners. Even though she largely protected her daughter, the stigma of sexual abuse follows the girl through her life. It’s a sad book, but it is an excellent one. The writing is tremendous and the characters all feel real and sympathetic, despite their many foibles.