Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky — Book Recommendation
May 28, 2015
Author: Ami Polonsky
Publisher: New York: Hyperion, 2014.
Audience Age: 9-12
Themes/Topics: Transgender child, theatre, bullying, hope
Opening Sentences: If you draw a triangle with a circle resting on the top point, nobody will be able to tell that it’s a girl in a dress. To add hair, draw kind of a semicircle on top. If you do this, you’ll be safe, because it looks like you’re just doodling shapes.
I was in third grade when I realized I could draw princesses without anyone knowing…
Synopsis: Everyone sees Grayson as a boy. Except Grayson. Doodles of princesses drawn with sparkly pens, baggy shorts and large t-shirts that one can pretend are skirts or dresses, staring at the mirror and willing it to show the girl in Grayson’s imagination were, for a long time, sufficient. As Grayson enters sixth grade, the pretending isn’t working anymore.
Having a friend, Amelia, who loves getting clothes from thrift stores helps a bit, but Grayson wants to yell “I should be wearing that skirt!” Grayson’s family (aunt and uncle and cousin) try to push their ward to fit the usual mold.
Grayson has a breakthrough at Middle School play tryouts, although most people are shocked at Grayson’s words, “Can I try out for Persephone?”
Winning the part, and finding support and encouragement within the school theatre community, gradually draw Grayson out. But the gay drama teacher’s job is threatened because of his mentoring of Grayson. Grayson’s family becomes more and more upset by the feminine tendencies that Grayson is exhibiting.
Can Grayson find the strength to be true to herself? I’m not going to tell you how the book ends, because I want you to read it for yourself.
I admire the way Ami Polonsky has written about the gradual transitioning of Grayson – truly, Polonsky’s novel is graceful in its handling of this important topic. The book is written in the first person, which not only brings the reader close to Grayson’s thoughts and feelings, but allows Polonsky to avoid the difficulties with pronouns that I’ve had in writing this post.
I highly recommend this book.
For Further Enrichment: There is information available for the families of transgender children at websites such as Transgender Child.
There are also websites for the kids themselves (and for those who care about them) such as Gender Creative Kids.
The Kids Help Phone site not only gives information for kids, but also a place to call if they are bullied, despairing, or suicidal (all too often the result of expressing who they truly are).
Availability: Readily available. Check with your independent bookstore!
This book has been added to my Diversity Reading Challenge list.