On March 20, the Trans Rights Readathon kicked off across social platforms, a decentralized fundraiser for trans rights organizations led by author and activist Sim Kern. The readathon challenges people to spend the week reading books written by trans and nonbinary authors, while asking their communities to pledge and support them in donating to trans rights groups like the Trans Health Legal Fund or local fundraisers to support their own trans friends.
Anyone can participate in the Trans Rights Readathon by signing up through this form and then using their platform, whether it be TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, or something else, to post about the books they’re reading and seek pledges.
Kern says they launched the readathon in direct response to recent legislative efforts that are proliferating across the country.
“I was feeling so much despair about the barrage of anti-trans bills being proposed across the U.S.,” they told Publishers Weekly. “I think so many people, myself included, felt defeated and overwhelmed and not sure what to do.”
If you’d like to participate in the Trans Rights Readathon but aren’t sure what you want to read, here are 16 recommendations of books by trans authors — memoir, YA contemporary, magical realism, romance, and more.
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In this speculative novel, Kris is not ready to be a single parent, but it is the reality she’s dealing with after her partner, Beau, dies in childbirth.
Life is already tough as it is, since Kris is a Shadester: someone who has been deemed a wrongdoer by the state, tried for their sins by the Department of Balance, and ordered to live under constant surveillance, with designated grocery store days and dozens of other restrictions that make her feel othered.
Even Kris’s kid is a Shadester, a title given to her upon her birth because of the circumstances. Shunned by society and painfully alone, Kris is left to raise this baby on her own, all the while terrified that she’ll screw it up. But as the kid grows, she comes into herself, lit with a spark that the world can’t take away, despite all the injustice.
A thought-provoking and gorgeously written novel, I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself is a stunning debut from Marisa Crane.
Dahlia, an amateur chef, feels like a mess after her recent divorce, and her fear is confirmed when she face-plants in front of the judges while on Chef’s Special, the reality cooking competition show she joined as a self-taught home cook. But her clumsiness doesn’t stop her fellow contestant, the level-headed London, from wanting to get to know her. London is nonbinary, and sharing their pronouns on national television hasn’t been easy. Even worse, their own dad isn’t accepting of their gender identity.
While Dahlia and London should be focused on competing against each other, they instead find themselves drawn to each other, vulnerably supporting each other on their own personal journeys.
This tender love story paired with the fun backdrop of reality TV is perfect for any reader.
A graphic memoir by comic artist Maia Kobabe, Gender Queer is a long journey of self-discovery that starts with the author’s earliest memories. Growing up with parents who never enforced gender roles and around other kids and families who didn’t subscribe to conventional models of gender, it took a few pivotal experiences for Maia to recognize that something was different within emself.
One of eir first classes in eir MFA program asked Maia to write down eir secret shames, and Maia found emself writing out a long list of things related to gender. Over time, through leaning into writing memoir comics and more, Maia found emself: a nonbinary and asexual person. E even found pronouns that brought them joy: e/em/eirs.
A deeply personal and moving graphic memoir, Gender Queer is great for any reader, and anyone who has ever struggled with figuring out any part of their identity.
All that 16-year-old Miles Jacobson wants to know is who he is. Here’s what he knows so far: Since he’s come out as trans, his ex-boyfriend Shane doesn’t want to be with him. And Miles wants to excel in the big classical piano competition coming up, so he signs up for lessons with a piano teacher who agrees to help him find himself in his music. So why isn’t it working?
Then Miles meets Eric, the new boy in town who’s also an artist. And Eric seems to get him in a way that no one has before. When their friendship takes a turn into a fake-dating ploy to score an invite to a couples-only party, things get a little messy, especially since Miles isn’t sure he’s really over Shane.
A love letter to queer and trans joy with exciting stakes, Always the Almost is everything there is to love about YA contemporary.
A wholly original and intriguing read, Summer Fun is an epistolary novel with an exciting concept.
Gala is a young trans woman living in New Mexico who is obsessed with the surf-rock 1960s band the Get Happies. Her obsession leads her to question why the band stopped making music and never released their anticipated album Summer Fun.
On a search for answers, she sends letters to B—, the tortured genius at the forefront of the band (whom Thornton has said was inspired by the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson). Gala finds that there was more behind the scenes than she knew of, and that she has more in common with B— than she expected to.
The founder and leader of a punk band and a self-proclaimed anarchist, Laura Jane Grace was never one to conform to restrictive social norms. But when her band became bigger and fans deemed them sellouts, they had to deal with all new problems, like people sabotaging their shows and beefs with other bands they toured with.
All the while, Laura was keeping private journals where she wrote what she wasn’t ready to share with the world: that she was a woman, something she wouldn’t share publicly until 2012, in a piece for Rolling Stone magazine.
With notes on Grace’s discovery of herself and all the messes she made on the way intertwined with juicy details of rockstar life on the road, Tranny is an engrossing read and remarkable rock memoir.
This slow-burn romance is a story about assumptions and misconceptions, workplace discrimination, and adjusting your biases. It’s also a book about the modern media landscape, shining a light on real issues that exist there.
Simone is a baker and pastry chef for the Discerning Chef, a cookbook publisher in NYC. She loves her work and is meticulous, valuing alone time to figure out and perfect her recipes. But then her company, like other media companies, pivots to video, and her way of working is flipped upside-down.
Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, is bubbly and outgoing, the opposite of reserved Simone. But Ray’s videos go viral, and Simone is forced to work with him, like it or not. When Ray comes out as nonbinary, the responses from their colleagues are mixed, and things get tense.
Simone is frustrated by Ray at first, but the more time they spend together, the more charmed she is by their disposition and talent, and she finds herself falling for Ray, who’s falling for her, too.
Chris, Elise, Jo, and Alex have been friends and chosen family since they first met working as waiters together. But now they’re in their 30s, with different jobs, new problems, children, and a dozen other things pulling them apart. They try to maintain their friendship with regular brunches, but they find themselves feeling judged by their younger peers. So they start Grind, an event for queers in their 30s: a place where they can be their messy selves.
But even with a new safe space, they can’t seem to ignore everything that’s making their lives more difficult: divorce, single parenthood, career aspirations threatened by workplace romance, and learning how to be there for each other when it’s hard enough to be there for themselves.
A realistic and honest portrayal of the pitfalls of growing up — something that you never really stop doing — Mimosa is a raw and vulnerable graphic novel sure to make you feel things.
Corinne Parker has been running her whole life. She runs cross-country, she runs from her problems, she runs from the truth, she runs from her feelings.
When the captain of her rival track team and her secret girlfriend, Maggie, dies, Corrine has nowhere to run to. She’s not ready to tell the world that she’s bisexual, something that caused a rift in her relationship. She finds solace in the one person who understands what she’s going through: Maggie’s ex-girlfriend, Elissa.
But healing is messy, and suddenly, she finds her feelings for Elissa growing complicated. Corrine needs to learn how to let more people in, including her dad, who is there for her in his own way, doing the best he can. First, she’ll have to learn to be honest with herself.
Who I Was With Her is a beautiful depiction of grief and self-discovery.
Thomas’s YA novel about a trans brujo is a groundbreaking exploration of gender and how it informs and coexists with traditions and family expectations.
Yadriel’s family does not seem to fully accept his identity as a trans boy, and he wants to show them who he is: not just a boy, but a brujo, too. To prove himself, he sets out to summon the ghost of his dead cousin, but while he succeeds in summoning a ghost, he gets the wrong one.
Enter Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy, who might not actually be bad after all, but just a hurt kid who's dealt with a lot of disappointment. Julian knows what it's like for other people to push their preconceived notions on you, and he helps Yadriel see that the only person who needs to accept him is himself. The more time they spend together, the harder it is to let go of Julian’s ghost.
Oseman’s beloved graphic novel series is a fan favorite for many reasons: it centers queer and trans love and joy, and its characters stand up for each other and themselves to any and all bullies.
At the heart of Heartstopper is Charlie Spring, a gay 16-year-old who, after a year of bullying, is starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to the close friends who support him and a new boy in school who is nice to look at and talk to. Nick is confused by his feelings for Charlie, but he knows he wants to protect him, and he does just that.
Meanwhile, Tao is upset that people in his friend group are getting coupled up, and he misses his best friend, Elle, who transferred to an all-girls school after coming out as trans. Everyone else sees what Tao can’t: he loves Elle, and not just as a friend.
While joy is at the center of Oseman’s books, there are tough topics, too, like homophobia, fraught relationships with parents, and struggles with mental health, all of which make the series more realistic and offer new ways for the characters to show compassion to each other.
A truly unique YA contemporary, Felix Ever After finds a trans teen in a catfishing conundrum that leaves him questioning everything and the motivations of everyone, even himself.
A talented artist, Felix is spending his summer taking an art program at school, where he struggles to find himself in the self-portraits he’s creating. And then a violent act of hate makes things even harder, as Felix finds a gallery of photos of himself pre-transition plastered on school walls, alongside his deadname.
When Felix thinks he’s figured out who’s out to get him, he sets out for revenge, creating a catfish account and making the person fall for him, exposing their vulnerabilities. But his hunch turns out to be wrong, and he finds himself in a messy situation that he isn’t sure how to navigate.
Through it all, his best friend Ezra is by his side, even when he doesn’t agree with Felix’s actions. Soon, the lines between friendship and romantic love get fuzzy, and Felix finds that the comfort he’s always had with Ezra is just what he’s been looking for.
A touching and emotional story about love, identity, and acceptance.
Despite what the title suggests, this book is actually a work of fiction, although it is real. The wordplay in the title is just the beginning of the genre-bending work this novel does, blending prose, poetry, magical realism, and mythology all in one fantastical work.
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars tells the story of Dearly, a young Asian trans girl who is also a pathological liar and kung fu expert, who runs away from her strict and abusive parents to strike out on her own. She finds her chosen family in a group of fellow trans femmes who are hell-bent on fighting back against the violent transphobes and cops who attack and murder their sisters.
With the acceptance of her new family and the help of a reptilian doctor, Dearly comes into her own as a woman, but she struggles to figure out the best way to avenge her fallen sisters without resorting to violence and leading to more heartache.
This prolific author’s second novel for adults, about a gender-questioning boy named Vivek Oji who lives in Southeastern Nigeria, is a moving, elegiac ode to found community.
Flitting between the perspectives of Vivek’s parents (the strict Chika, the loving Kavita), Vivek’s cousin Osita, and Vivek himself, the novel describes his troubled history growing up in the town of Ngwa; his refusal to adhere to strict gender norms; and his ragtag group of queer friends, adolescent children of the Nigerwives, a group of foreign women who are married to Nigerian men and have formed a little community.
Emezi is an engaging and evocative writer; their descriptions of small-town Nigerian life are vividly rendered. Though the book’s title foreshadows its ending, that it still manages to move you is a testament to Emezi’s skill. —Tomi Obaro
Writer and trans activist Janet Mock’s 2014 memoir is an honest and eye-opening portrayal of her life as a Black and Indigenous trans woman who was confident in her gender identity at a young age, but was limited by her circumstances. The first person in her family to go to college, Mock found success as a writer and editor for magazines, while keeping her guard up about her past, until she finally found the strength to come out publicly, which didn’t go as planned.
Mock shares about her parents’ marriage and its dissolution, which forced her to relocate from Hawaii to Texas as a teenager; finding her femininity among friends; her gender-affirming surgery as a college freshman. She also writes of her time as a sex worker, which she speaks on with a nuanced point of view that is valuable in any time, but especially today.
One of the books has been removed from this list because it was published by an author who has not publicly announced their gender identity.