Beyond Magenta

Cover of Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org


Publishers Weekly

PW Reviews 2013 November #3

In a sorely needed resource for teens and, frankly, many adults, author/photographer Kuklin shares first-person narratives from six transgender teens, drawn from interviews she conducted and shaped with input from her subjects. The six “chapters” read like personal histories, with Kuklin interjecting occasional context and helping bridge jumps in time. Readers will gain a real understanding of gender as a spectrum and a societal construct, and of the challenges that even the most well-adjusted, well-supported transgender teens face, from mockery by peers and adults alike to feelings of isolation and discomfort in their own bodies. When readers meet New York City teenager Christina, she has gotten into a knock-down fight on the subway with two girls who were making fun of her; although Kuklin’s color and b&w portraits appear throughout, 19-year-old Mariah requests no photographs of her be used, confessing, “I’m not ready for people to see me.” While Kuklin’s subjects are candid about the difficulties of coming out as transgender to family and friends and the patience that transitioning often requires, their honest, humorous, and painful remarks about their relationships with gender are often downright revelatory. “Because I’m perceived as male, I get male privileges. It weirds me out a little bit,” says Cameron, whose PGP (preferred gender pronoun) is the plural “they.” Nat, who also prefers “they,” is relieved when diagnosed as intersex. “It proved what I had been feeling all along. I was not only emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually both sexes; I was physically both sexes, too. This is who I am.” A q&a section, author notes, glossary, and print and online resources close out the book. But its chief value isn’t just in the stories it reveals but in the way Kuklin captures these teenagers not as idealized exemplars of what it “means” to be transgender but as full, complex, and imperfect human beings. As Kuklin writes, “My subjects’ willingness to brave bullying and condemnation in order to reveal their individual selves makes it impossible to be nothing less than awestruck.” She isn’t wrong. Ages 14–up. Agent: Brianne Johnson, Writers House. (Feb.)

Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal

SLJ Reviews 2014 February

Gr 9 Up—Extended interviews with six very different transgender, genderqueer, and intersex young adults allow these youth to tell their stories in their own words. Author-interviewer-photographer Kuklin interjects only briefly with questions or explanations, so that the voices of these youth-alternately proud and fearful, defiant and subdued, thoughtful and exuberant-shine through. While the interview subjects do occasionally ramble or become vague, the power of these 12-to-40 page interviews is that readers become immersed in these young adults’ voices and experiences. The youth interviewed here do not uniformly share It Gets Better-style happy endings, but their strength is nonetheless inspirational as they face ongoing challenges with families, sexual and romantic relationships, bullies, schools, transitions, mental health, and more. The level of detail about their lives, and the diversity of their identities-including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and geography-provide a powerful antidote to the isolation and stigma that some transgender youth experience. Photographs of four of the subjects, including some before-and-after transition pictures from childhood and adolescence, help tell their stories and bring their transitions to life. Extensive back matter includes an interview with the clinical director of a health program for LGBTQI youth, a glossary, and books, media, websites, and organizations of interest to transgender youth. While this book’s format and subject matter are probably never going to attract a broad audience, there is much here that will resonate with and hearten the kids who need it and will foster understanding and support among those who live and work with transgender teens.—Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

[Page 125]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Reviews 2014 February #1

Kuklin’s book profiles six transgender teens in both their own words and the author’s excellent photographs. The result is a strikingly in-depth examination of the sometimes clinical complexities of being transgender, even as Kuklin’s empathy-inducing pictures put a human face on the experience. The profiles are evenly divided between FTM (female to male) and MTF (male to female) teens. Also represented are a variety of races and ethnicities, and included are one teen who is intersex and another who regards themself as pansexual (several of the teens choose to identify themselves with the gender-neutral pronouns they, them, and their). Though their experiences differ, the teens often stress that, as Kuklin puts it, “Gender is one variable in a person’s identity, and sexual orientation is another variable. The two are not connected.” Similarly, Kuklin makes clear that, despite the popular misconception, all trans teens are not gay. Further information is contained in an appended interview with Dr. Manel Silva, clinical director of the HOTT (Health Outreach to Teens) program at the New York City–based Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which has served the needs of several of the profiled teens. Kuklin’s important new book brings welcome clarity to a subject that has often been obscure and gives faces—literally and metaphorically—to a segment of the teen population that has too long been invisible. Speaking with equal impact to both the reader’s heart and mind, Beyond Magenta is highly recommended.

Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

The Horn Book

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Fall

Rather than attempting to convey the spectrum of transgender experience through a multitude of voices, Kuklin focuses on just six young people whose gender identities are something other than what they were labeled at birth. Photographs (of most of the subjects) are candid and winning; appended material, including a Q&A with the director of a clinic for transgender teens, is valuable. Reading list, websites. Glos.Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2014 #2

Rather than attempting to convey the spectrum of transgender experience through a multitude of voices, Kuklin tries something different here, focusing on just six young people whose gender identity is something other than what it was labeled at birth. All six take gender-altering hormones; four were birth-designated male and two female, but in all cases there is no confusion about who they are now. Christina, born Matthew, looks forward to a complete transition (“It would be so great if I could get an operation, if I could get my vagina”), while Cameron says, “I like to be recognized as not a boy and not a girl. I’m gender queer, gender fluid, and gender other.” In her edited transcriptions of the interviews, Kuklin lets her subjects speak wholly for themselves, and while their bravery is heartening, their bravado can be heartbreaking. But who expects teenagers to be tentative? Photographs (of most of the subjects) are candid and winning; and appended material, including Kuklin’s explanation of her interview process, a Q&A with the director of a clinic for transgendered teens, and a great resource list, is valuable.

Roger Sutto Copyright 2014 Horn Book Magazine.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

VOYA Reviews 2014 April

Being a teenager is hard enough on most days—school, friends, pressures from family and society, homework. But teens who struggle with their identities, specifically as to which gender, if any, they associate with, often find themselves with no support system and an upward battle in making those around them understand the process through which they are fighting. Beyond Magenta documents the stories of six teenagers, in their own words, who consider themselves transgender or gender neutral. Their stories are about pain and power of transition, their daily lives, and how they feel society and their families and friends view them Kuklin’s book is not just a lifeline for teens who are going through something similar and need to see themselves and their lives so openly portrayed—this book is an important read for the parents, friends, and loved ones who want to understand what a transgender teen might be going through. This book is worth having on any shelf in any library and will not linger there long. Kuklin includes a glossary and resources for further reading and research, a carefully compiled list that will be useful for anyone who reads this book. In short, this is a highly informative resource that is powerful, respectful, honest, and most importantly, long overdue.—Amanda Fensch Glossary.

Further Reading. 5Q 4P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

ForeWord Reviews

ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2014 – Spring Issue: March 1, 2014

Intimate personal stories and photos of transgender teenagers invite discussion of the gender continuum.

Most people struggle to find their place in the world and with identity issues. This is even more difficult for transgender individuals who do not fall into the category of either female or male. Susan Kuklin’s book of photo essays, Beyond Magenta, explains how gender, sexual orientation, and identity itself are complex and multilayered. Six gender neutral or transgender young adults explain their lives via photos and interviews, highlighting people who do not fit into traditional societal norms.

Though the book definitely focuses on what it is like to grapple with gender identity and sexual orientation, the photo essays also touch on the teens’ passions and interests: from soccer and music to attending prom and going to college. Kuklin could have simply summarized their stories; instead, she allowed the young adults to speak for themselves. The interviewees have agency because they are not objectified or pitied. The photographs feel intimate, like those in a family album. There are before and after images that portray the genesis of fully realizing one’s true identity, and there are photos of the youths embracing their loved ones. These teens do not avert their gazes, they have worked hard for empowerment.

Kuklin organizes the book using everything from direct quotes and summaries to photos and even poems and short plays. The author understands that different stories need different frames. A glossary provides helpful definitions to better explain what it means to be “intersex” or how “FTM” (female-to-male) describes “a person assigned female at birth but who identifies as male; a trans man.” This ensures even someone new to the gender continuum or transgender world can access the subject matter.

Kuklin is bold when discussing sex reassignment, male privilege, and sexual orientation. People unfamiliar with such topics may feel uncomfortable with the bold language or confused about using pronouns like “they” instead of “he” or “she.” However, the glossary, personal stories, and photographs may help put the reader at ease.

Kuklin’s photo essays demystify the transgender experience. The teenagers are allowed to speak about their struggles with gender, sexuality, family, and finding a place in a world that often asks people to be one thing or another. Like the gender continuum, the six young adults have different experiences, personalities, and viewpoints. Hearing from people like Cameron and Jessy makes the trans world more personal.

© 2014 Foreword Magazine, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


One thought on “Beyond Magenta

  1. Pingback: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out | Queer Young Adult Literature

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