Being Emily is a delightfully written, easy to read, compelling, heartfelt read, completely different from the majority of transgender fiction out there (which is usually fetish) and all the better for it. I absolutely adored it from beginning to end.
It’s more than a book about being transgender though, so don’t be put off if you aren’t trans yourself or interested in the subject matter. It’s the story of a person discovering and learning to love themselves with their own sense of identity and purpose. Emily, the lead character ably supported by her friend Emily take us through her voyage of self discovery, without it ever feeling like an in depth examination with over explicit details of gender re-assignment surgery. We get to see the influence of the church on Emily’s mother and Claire, the futile hope of reparative surgery through the eyes of sleazeball Dr Webber, the sense of loss of a son from Emily’s mother.
Rachel displays a wonderfully expressive writing style throughout this book – from her beautiful descriptions of scenes and moments, to the detached emotions conveyed in Emily’s “computer programme speak” when confronted by a scene where she is acting on automatic pilot. By writing chapters from each of the leading characters perspectives, Rachel gives herself the opportunity to explore Emily’s story deeply, in an age appropriate way, without getting hungup on the gory details of surgery. All of the key moments in the transgender journey are here. Doubt, isolation, peer to peer support, parents wanting their old child back, hate, hormone prescriptions, old and new approaches to therapy, a best friend for an ally and the subtle influence of religion on peoples behaviour and in particular her parents.
It’s a thought provoking and sometimes jarring read. In one scene, Emily returns from a meal out to barricade herself in her room, before picking up a knife to cut her clothes from her body, to stand in front of a mirror, knife in hand, poised ready to remove the cause of her dysphoria. Cue her dad’s arrival, literally smashing through the door to come to her aid. This scene, one of a number of pivotal scenes in the book, serves to wrench Emily’s dad from his initial position of the detachment typical of so many male parents, to a realisation that leads to a “tolerance” of her situation and the gesture which ultimately puts her on the path for college and the surgeries she so badly needs to be herself.
I highly recommend this delightful book for any library, school reading program, or any other educational or organised activity, as it’s an interesting, valuable and positive insight into the transgender community and the issues they face.
If you would like to buy the book or yourself – yu can catch it here