Monday, November 14, 2016

LGBT Monday: Beyond Magenta (Transgender Teens Speak Out)

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak OutAuthor: Susan Kuklin
Released: August 6th 2016
Publisher: Walker UK
Length: 182 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: Book Depository

A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens.
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender
, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves. 

Beyond Magenta is the very first non-fiction book reviewed here in the five years of The Nocturnal Library’s existence, and I couldn’t have picked a better one for the honor. It consists of six stories about six transgender, genderqueer or gender nonconforming teens, accompanied by gorgeous, honest photographs and several comments by the author. The stories are told in first person by the teens themselves, interspersed here and there by the author’s brief comments and observations.

The first thing that will strike any reader is a complete absence of idealization. The teens are portrayed as they are, nothing is hidden, nothing embellished. They are people with convictions, fears, and sometimes inappropriate reactions, with lives a lot more challenging than those of cisgendered people. Kuklin did her very best to cover as much of the spectrum as she possibly could by including six very different shades of the gender spectrum. The kids categorize themselves, if they want to be categorized at all, and they tell their stories with such painful honesty and openness.

Beyond Magenta is essentially a book “about sex and alienation, two universal themes that have interacted in life, literature and art since for ever.” (Kuklin 2016: 164) As the author herself explains, initially she meant to write about teens whose true gender isn’t what they were born with, i.e. girls who are really boys, and boys who are really girls. As her research progressed, however, she discovered so many different possibilities and made certain to represent them fairly.

Some of these stories are light, as some of the teens live in encouraging, empowering environments. Others face more challenges, internal and external both. Each of the stories ends on a hopeful note, though, making sure that we have something to hold on to, even as we contemplate realities and challenges so very different from ours.

I can only imagine what this book will mean to other transgender and genderqueer teens all around the world. Sometimes it’s enough to know that you’re not alone, that other people feel exactly like you. Beyond Magenta is a Stonewall honor book, a powerful and revelatory account of lives within the transgender community. In light of recent political events, such works of hope and encouragement might be essential to surviving whatever is coming and making it to the other side more tolerant and kind than we ever were.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. Wow, I can't believe this is the first non-fic book you've reviewed on here. I think this is a great choice to lead with though. I really do want to read this one.


  2. it looks like an interesting book, mainly as it's non fiction.

  3. Maja this sounds like such a great read, I'm not one to pick up non-fiction books, but can see the importance and relevance of this book today. Gorgeous review as always!

  4. Wonderful review Maja, and I love that we get each of their perspectives.

  5. I know I have seen this one. I think Rummannah reviewed it. anyway it sounds important and powerful and one I need to read.

  6. I agree that this was an eye opening read. I reviewed it for Banned Book Week as it was one of the top 10 books challenged for the year.

  7. This sounds absolutely incredible and just so empowering in that it gives so many members of our society a voice when they often are the ones whose stories are unheard. Thank you for putting this on my radar, Maja, and for reviewing it and being such a huge ally of the LGBTQIAP+ community through the effort you make in seeking out literature that includes this minority group. I love these features you do and this book and review have already touched me. I can't wait to read it.

  8. I really agree with your last sentence so much. I am a bit heartbroken at the moment since it seems that people aren't as outraged as they should be. So many people are affected and will be. I'm so grateful to people like you who are trying to make their world better and bringing to light these kind of books that would help facilitate it. Thank you! ((HUGS))

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