Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Grayson has been keeping a secret for years, when he gets dressed in the morning he imagines that his clothes are beautiful dresses and skirts - but as he gets older it is harder and harder for him to keep the image in his mind throughout the day.  The long tops and shirts that used to be enough to keep the image in his mind are no longer enough, and each day he feels more frustrated and depressed in equal measures.  Quiet and a loner, it is a surprise for everyone when Grayson strikes up a friendship with Amelia, a new girl in his class who happens to live across the street from him.

His friendship with Amelia is not the only new change, after years of sitting quietly on the sidelines Grayson has decided to try out for the school play - not only does he try out, he also tries out for the female lead in the play.  When Grayson is cast as a female character in the play it starts a surreal slide into heaven and hell for Grayson.  At home his aunt and uncle are divided over their support - one wants him to pull out, the other is quietly supportive.  School life is just as polarised with some students showing support and understanding, while others walk around calling him gay.  Grayson has found the courage to go after what he wants, but at what cost?

Gracefully Grayson is a touching and engaging story about a child who on the outside may be a boy, but on the inside feels like a girl.  Transgender children, teens, and adults are probably the most misunderstood of the LGBTQ community - for some reason people seem more ready to accept that you can fall in love with someone of the same sex, yet can not accept the fact someone may feel they have been born into the wrong sex.  Gracefully Grayson tackles this uncomfortable topic head on, including the uncomfortable and confronting moments.  Grayson is a completely believable character, struggling to understand why "he" dreams of wearing dresses, and why "he" feels the way "he" does.  

I have not read many books covering the topic of transgender children because I cringe at the thought of how the authors approach the topic - especially seeing as how I just adored 10,000 dresses by Marcus Ewert,  It is all too easy for the stories to be didactic, or for the stories to become a moralising story - but that is not the case with Gracefully Grayson.  Grayson is entering a time of life when children start to become truly aware of themselves, aware of the differences that make them who they are, and the time when they are very aware that other children and adults might be judging them.  The way the story unfolds seem very genuine because of the way Grayson feels and acts, and what Grayson thinks and feels about the people around him.  It is through the course of the novel that the confusion fades away and Grayson becomes truly aware that "he" in fact feels like the girl "he" is inside.

One of the things I loved about this novel was the other characters who represent the thousands of people everyday who are going through the same thing as Grayson and the people in the lives of those "Graysons".  There are the supportive and caring family members, the disbelieving family members, the protective family, and the clueless family.  There are the friends that stand by you, the friends you lose, and the new friends that accept you as you are.  There are the teachers who understand, and the teachers who don't.  I have to confess that at first I was a little disappointed at the pace of the novel, and how slowly things unfolded, but in hindsight I now realise that it was more realistic and genuine.

It is during our childhood and adolescence that we develop a great deal of our beliefs and prejudices, partly from our parents and partly from our peers.  I was incredibly lucky to be raised by a parent with an open mind and loving heart, and I was exposed to literature which encouraged acceptance and understanding over prejudice.  I hope that there are parents, teachers, and friends out there who will share Graysons story so that we can move towards a society where difference is celebrated and accepted as the norm - so the real Graysons out there have the confidence to step out and be who they really are rather than who society perceives them to be.

If you like this book then try:
  • Some assembly required: The not-so-secret life of a transgender teen by Arin Andrews
  • Rethinking normal: A memoir in transition by Katie Rain Hill

Reviewed by Brilla

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