elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention: Uncommon Girls by Carla Grant

Uncommon Girls

"I give this memoir a score of 40. I hesitate to give a perfect score, but the book is captivating from page one and continues powerfully till the end. The basic story is a mother learning her son is trans and their journeys (they are separate ones in many regards) as he becomes she. I appreciated the POV of the mother, since so many accounts are through the eyes of the trans person. And I liked that the mother was a complex, intelligent, well-meaning, and terribly flawed individual. Grant tells the story not only of her trans daughter but also how that overwhelming aspect of her life still had to compete with plenty of other parts, her alcoholism, her remarriage, other children, rescue dogs, her daughter's self-harm, and multiple mental health issues. As if the story wasn't complex enough, we learn early on that the trans daughter is also on the autism spectrum, adding multiple additional stresses. It's all fascinating and at times even funny. Grant uses a variety of clever literary techniques to keep the reader interested. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It's excellent."

"Wow, this was not what I expected, and I almost gave up on it in the early going (what with the focus on mom's dating misadventures), but then it came to Eliot's written proposal to wear high heels to school . . . and suddenly I found myself loving this kid. On the surface, it really does seems like it is going to be too much - an autistic child who identifies as transgender, with a recovering alcoholic single parent telling their story - but it is actually beautiful and funny and heartwarming, even as they deal with the challenges of Canadian education and healthcare. Mom's whole "fluid concept of womanhood" is perfect, and Ella is . . . well, I am going to go all out and call her a hero. She is amazing."

It is increasingly evident that Eliot is not only autistic, but is also an uncommon girl. Eliot's mother, Carla, recounts their journey down an unfamiliar path riddled with dismissive medical consultations and mental health referrals to clinics with epic waiting lists. Eliot transitions to Ella, with ambitions of being a trophy wife. Her parents attempt to set limits but Ella, in a typically teenage way, resists anything she deems as trying to squelch her true feminine self. Ella is "outed" repeatedly by teachers she trusted and stops attending school. Carla's rage morphs into a motivating sense of injustice and she engages in a successful campaign for her child's civil rights. Carla and Ella are not superheroes, they are just a couple of uncommon girls determined to leave a bumpy road a little smoother for the next travelers.

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Tags: rainbow awards 2018-2019

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