By March 28, 2017 4 Comments Read More →

A Trans* and Gender Nonconforming Reading List for All Ages

Booklist trans title collage_LONG


News about the transgender community—including banned books, bathroom laws, hockey, wrestlers, models, parades, Jackie and Juliet Evancho, and, most tragically, a horrifying murder caught on cellphone video—have all made recent headlines. Books can be helpful, entertaining, illuminating portals into the trans*/gender nonconforming (GNC) experience. The list below highlights books by and about the trans*/GNC community for all ages. For non-trans readers with family members, friends, colleagues who are trans*/GNC—actually, for all readers with open minds and hearts—books can lead the way towards becoming well-informed allies.


Picture Books

I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

The only picture book memoir thus far tells the story of young Jazz Jennings and her realization at age two that her girl’s brain didn’t fit her boy’s body. Groundbreaking for being the first, yet bookshelves have plenty of room for both addition and improvement.


Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress christine BaldacchinoJacob’s New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

Jacob’s love of wearing dresses doesn’t exactly endear him to all the other kids in his class. But his imagination and determination eventually win over his parents, his teacher, and his classmates, too.


Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

A little boy shows his class the power of the little orange dress. With gentle humor, author Baldacchino debunks all the shoulds and shouldn’ts of children’s behavior based merely on their x-chromosomes.


 Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall

A blue crayon wrapped in a red label turns out to be the perfect hero in an inspiring story about how to be your own true self.


Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, illustrated by Naomi Bardoff

Inspired by the work of Gender Spectrum, a non-profit group dedicated to creating gender sensitive and inclusive environments for children and teens, this colorful book explains bodies, how we express ourselves, and identities in easy-to-understand language for all ages. Also includes information and resources for adults and allies.



 Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, by Jazz Jennings

The middle-grade companion to the reality television star’s picture book, I Am Jazz (see above).


lily and dunkin donna gephart Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart

For Lily (born Timothy) and Dunkin (who’s really Norbert), finding each other makes all the difference in surviving—and thriving—through eighth grade.


Wandering Son and Wandering Son, v. 2,  (up to v. 6) by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn

A groundbreaking graphic series from Japan about two middle-school friends coming of age: Nitori, who wishes he could be a girl, and Takatsuki, who wishes she could be a boy. Creator Shimura treats both protagonists’ journeys of self-discovery with gentle honesty; her characters are wide-eyed and adorable, uncertain and searching.


Young Adult

The Art of Being Normal, by Lisa Williamson

David wants to be a girl, Leo wants to be unnoticed, and an unlikely friendship is born in this illuminating and appealing British import.


 Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, written and photographed by Susan Kuklin

Six transgender and gender nonconforming teens speak out—candidly, vulnerably, openly—about their diverse experiences. Kulkin’s photographs are especially revealing.


if i was your girl meredith russoIf I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo

New girl Amanda, born Andrew 19 years ago, escapes the abuse and violence of her home town to start anew with her father, who she hasn’t seen in six years. New school, new friends, maybe even new love. . . if only her secret stays safe.


None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio

This first-time author tackles a topic rarely seen in books for younger readers: a high school senior discovers secrets about her own body that she’s never even considered.


Parrotfish, by Ellen Wittlinger

Angela’s announcement, as a high school junior, about his transition to Grady divides his family and friends. Author Wittlinger creates Grady’s world with deft accuracy, filled with contemporary details and all-too-real situations.


 Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin

“The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?” Keep wondering: Riley Cavanaugh isn’t answering.



Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, by Amy Ellis Nutt

Jonas and Wyatt were born identical twin boys, but by toddlerhood, Wyatt knew she was a girl. Their mother Kelly supported Nicole unconditionally; father Wayne’s understanding would take longer. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nutt edifies readers with history, science, medicine, and law, deftly exposing the family’s challenges without demonizing the ignorant, fearful, at times downright nasty naysayers.


shes not there a life in two genders jennifer finney boylanMiddlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

The 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winner has one of fiction’s best opening lines: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Cal’s epic self-discovery, interwoven through an epic ancestral tale, is a complex, transformative journey indeed.


She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Originally published in 2003, Boylan updated her bestselling memoir, chronicling her transition from James to Jenny, in 2013. With growing awareness of the transgender community, Boylan’s memoir is even more resonating today.


This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel

Frankel’s third novel is her most personal: As the mother of a transgender daughter, she writes with clarity, truth, and heart. Rosie and Penn already have four sons when Claude arrives. A remarkable child by all accounts, Claude announces at age three that he wants to be a girl when he grows up. Cautious at first, the family creates a loving, nurturing world as Claude becomes Poppy. But even in the most accepting environments, living with secrets has challenges and consequences impossible to ignore.


The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals, by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper

Just about everything you ever wanted/needed/hoped to know about raising a transgender child. An indispensable guide for all families and institutions that include transgender members. See also: The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens.'

About the Author:

Terry Hong created and maintains Smithsonian BookDragon, a book blog for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. She was the writer wrangler for the film Girl Rising. She taught for Duke University’s Leadership in the Arts in NYC. She co-authored two books, Eastern Standard Time: A Guide to Asian Influence on American Culture from Astro Boy to Zen Buddhism and What Do I Read Next? Multicultural Literature. She reviews extensively for many publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SIBookDragon.

4 Comments on "A Trans* and Gender Nonconforming Reading List for All Ages"

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  1.' Jenna Moore says:

    A couple other middle grade books that feature trans boys are The Other Boy and The Pants Project, both great reads!!!

    •' Terry Hong says:

      See above reply to Shari Platt Cohen. Sooooo many books, never ever enough time. And thanks so much for sharing titles!

  2.' TS Jessica says:

    She’s Not There was excellent, highly recommended to all

  3.' Jessa C says:

    I was looking for trans books and just found this article. I realize that it was published in 2017, but stil … interesting books.

    I highly recommand “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides. It’s not the easiest to read, but definitely a classic.

    Thanks for this pretty nice list Terry!


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