Ag Léamh: What I’m Reading This Week #3

Welcome to the third post in the Ag Léamh series, in which I chat about the books I’ll be reading this week. This week I’m starting on Trans Voices: Becoming Who You Are, by Declan Henry.

It’s taken me a while since finishing and submitting my thesis *takes a moment to have a mini dance party* to feel like reading again. I’d just had enough of words for a while, y’know?

At the moment, I don’t have steady work so I’ve had to really reign in my ebook buying addiction habit. As a result, I have rediscovered the beauty of the library. I’ve been a member since I was in primary school, and my whole class took a trip down past the donkeys in the Casino in Malahide to get our library cards. Two elements of the library have particularly endeared itself to me since I’ve reconnected with it – the ability to order books from any corner of the country and have it arrive fairly pronto in my local, and the fact that there are no more late fees!

malahide library

This week’s book was purposely sought out as a result of the controversy/uproar/debate around John Boyne’s most recent publication, My Brother’s Name is Jessica. I have not read that book, and I’m not really sure if I will or not. Aside from the noise around it relating to how he handles transgender issues in the book, reviews are mixed from those who looked past that to the story itself.

I fully support anyone who identifies as trans, regardless of how that experience looks for them, and while I agree with the need for trans people to be represented more in literature, I think it’s important that if a large portion of any community tell you that they feel you are misrepresenting them, that should be taken account of. On the other hand, literature can sometimes be helpful in its ability to take a controversial stand, particularly in fiction, precisely because it does not have to be true, and I think if any good outcome has come from this debacle, its that I’m seeing much more discussion about trans issues generally. However, I’m not sure that causing people to feel hurt was worth that, and in cases like this, I always take my brother’s sage advice and insert a different minority in the situation, to see if it feels wrong, and if I think of black people, or gay people, or disabled people in the same situation, it doesn’t sit well with me.


What I did realise, however, as a result of the Twitter storm that came about around this book, was that I don’t know much about what transgender people go through. I mean, I know it can be very difficult, I know they can go through many issues, but I don’t really know many trans people. I interact with some absolute legends on Twitter about it, but I don’t interact with them in a ‘so what’s your trans experience like – sit down there now and tell me all about it’ kind of way. So I decided to actively seek out books about this. I would prefer to read books by actual trans authors, but (surprise, surprise), there aren’t many published trans authors, particularly not in Ireland. This was the first book on the small list I had compiled (largely derived from my ask on the ever-amazing Rick O’Shea Book Club on Facebook. Join them if you like books in any way. You won’t be sorry). If you can point me towards any others, please do!

I’m really interested in delving into this because it is written following interviews of multiple transgender people, from a range of experiences. I am looking forward to hopefully learning more and understanding better. I’ll check in again later in the week to give an update of how I’m getting on with it!


blurred book book pages literature

What are you reading this week? How are you finding it so far? Do let me know in the comments!


Ag Léamh (which translates from Irish as ‘reading’) is a new weekly series on the books I’m reading and listening to, and my thoughts on them as I go along. Posts will usually go live on Mondays (or Tuesdays!), and depending on the voraciousness of my reading each week, possibly also on Fridays of each week

If you are affected by any of the issues around transgender identity, please seek help – places like BelongTo and TENI are some good Irish organisations specifically for sexuality and gender identity support. If you disagree with my opinion, that’s fine, but please note that any offensive comments etc posted in response to this will be deleted and phobic conversation will not be tolerated. My blog is a safe space for those of any identity, gender or race.

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