Refreshing a pioneering transgender YA novel
When Rachel Gold’s novel “Being Emily” was published in 2012, it was the first time a young-adult novel put a transgender character at its center. This year, the book is being reissued in a new edition, with an introduction by Harvard professor and poet Stephanie Burt.
Active in the LGBT community, Gold said she wanted the book to reflect the common themes she heard from transgender friends about what they had experienced when they were young. Transgender readers, Gold said, “had every reason to be suspicious” about the book when it was first published. “But the response was very positive from transwomen who read it, so that was really gratifying,” she said.
Still, Gold knew the book needed an update, especially in the language used around trans issues. “It hasn’t been that long, but the transgender community has changed so much in the last six years that it was definitely time for an update,” Gold said. The new edition also includes new science about gender identity and childhood.
Gold, who identifies as a nonbinary lesbian and uses both feminine (she/her) and gender neutral (they/them) pronouns, said she’s grateful for the way language and society are evolving. “I’m very appreciative of the younger generation, where I can say, ‘Yes, I’ve always felt I did not fit in these boxes’ – you know, man box, woman box. But I didn’t have a lot of language for that.”
Echoing Burt’s introduction, Gold added, she intends the new edition to be a book “where trans girls really see themselves, see themselves being loved, see themselves in a positive light, overcoming problems. I think there’s still not enough of that in the world in terms of trans identity — and a lot of other identity.”
Gold and Burt will discuss and read from “Being Emily” at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, at Harvard Book Store.
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