From Publishers Weekly
In this gripping, illuminating and deeply moving portrait of transgender teens in Los Angeles, the smallest incidents reverberate sharply. Beam, volunteering at a support center for trans teens, helps a young woman named Christina make changes on her driver's license: her name from Eduardo and the gender from male to female. The DMV clerk adamantly refuses to make the adjustment and only acquiesces after the humiliated Christina has a meltdown and Beam, pretending to be an ACLU lawyer, demands a supervisor. Christina is one of several, mostly minority, male-to-female transgender women to whom Beam becomes attached. Their group interactions—including fights, friendships and daily struggles to survive—form the center of the book. Though these women's lives are difficult—when Christina is beaten during an attempted rape, she has to lie to the police about being transgender—there are also moments of quick wit. As Beam morphs from parent to therapist, chum, cheerleader and legal adviser, she seamlessly blends memoir, reportage and advocacy. The result is a vivid and fiercely empathetic narrative that juxtaposes dead-on portraits of these young women with clearly articulated fury at a culture that's not only fearful of anyone who deviates from traditional gender roles but treats minorities and the poor with contempt. (Jan.)
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Beam writes of her volunteer activities at Eagles, a small high school for gay and transgender teens in Los Angeles, by focusing on first one, then another, of the young people she encountered. Many were homeless, thrown out by their parents. Some alternated between gender identities, switching from masculine to feminine names as well as apparel. Beam taught language skills and writing. She and her students, who sometimes wandered into school and sometimes didn't, "managed to pull together enough pieces to make a magazine." Along with obituaries of friends, the 20-page glossy contained teen poetry, medical advice on the hazards of too many hormones acting too quickly, a transgender "Hints from Heloise," and two columns, "Getting Out of a Gang" and "When Your Grandma Finds Your Drag Clothes." Other victories, less tangible but equally important as she established meaningful relationships with the kids, as well as frustrations, obstacles, and disappointments, make for compelling reading that fills an important niche in gender studies. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved