The New Queer Conscience – by Adam Eli / Beyond the Gender Binary – by Alok Vaid-Menon

    The New Queer Conscience (Pocket Change Collective) by Adam Eli, Penguin Workshop, 9780593093689, 2020

  Beyond the Gender Binary (Pocket Change Collective) by Alok Vaid-Menon, Penguin Workshop, 9780593094655, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Paperback


What did you like about the books?  These tiny books (4” x 6” and only 60 pages long) are part of a new Penguin set written by young activists that tackle high interest topics for teens. The two titles I read both begin with testimonials. Eli grew up in an orthodox Jewish family and while he was loved and protected by his parents and brothers, he felt compelled to stay in the closet. Alok grew up in a very traditional Indian immigrant family in Texas. He recognized his trans identity early on, but was unable to live authentically. These narratives are simple, heart-felt and very interesting. Then the books diverge, with Eli rolling out a manifesto for a queer collective that can love and shelter all LGBTQIAA+ peoples and explains how his Jewish faith has informed his vision. Vaid-Menon focuses his book on the misconceptions trans people encounter and gives straight forward but passionate responses to disinformation that seeks to strip them of legitimacy, such as: “I agree that gender is cultural but sex is biological” or “You are making everything about gender. Stop bringing it up if you want it to go away.”  The books’ covers feature colorful caricatures of the authors and are thoughtfully designed with an easy-to-read serif font, widely spaced lines and bold text to announce the subject headings (in Vaid-Melon’s book) or a blank page with pink type to introduce the tenets of Eli’s proposal. I learned a lot from reading both books.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The content is great and the whole package is very appealing. I’m not sure how they would work on library shelves, given their slight, slim presence. They seem like they were designed to lay out on a table at Urban Outfitters or on a rack at a bookstore checkout. I would probably put them in an acrylic box in my health and wellness area, rather than relegating them to the stacks.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Middle and high school students looking for information on these topics. I can see using multiple copies in the classroom as a way to start and sustain group discussion on sexual and gender identity. 

Who should buy this book? Middle, high school and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? See above.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: June 29, 2020

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