Friday, April 11, 2014

Book review: Redefining Realness

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads! Holy long description! I cut it down a bit for this post.

In 2011, Marie Clairemagazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she publicly stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Since then, Mock has gone from covering the red carpet for to advocating for all those who live within the shadows of society. Redefining Realness offers a bold new perspective on being young, multiracial, economically challenged, and transgender in America.

Welcomed into the world as her parents’ firstborn son, Mock set out early on to be her own person—no simple feat for a young person like herself. She struggled as the smart, determined child in a deeply loving, yet ill-equipped family that lacked money, education, and resources. Mock had to navigate her way through her teen years without parental guidance but luckily with a few close friends and mentors she overcame extremely daunting hurdles.

This powerful memoir follows Mock’s quest for identity, from her early gender conviction to a turbulent adolescence in Honolulu that found her transitioning through the halls of her school, self-medicating with hormones at fifteen, and flying across the world for sex reassignment surgery at just eighteen. Ever resilient, Mock emerged with a scholarship to college and moved to New York City, where she earned her masters degree, basked in the success of an enviable career, and told no one about her past.

I first heard of Janet Mock after she had gone on Piers Morgan's show. An actress I follow on Twitter, Laverne Cox, tweeted/retweeted a couple times about how Janet had not been treated well on Piers' show. She later went back on his show and explained why she felt she had been mistreated

I didn't watch the interviews at that time, though I have since, but I began following Mock on Twitter. She was publicizing her new book, and I put it on hold at the library.

The transgender community is a marginalized population in the US, and I was eager to read about Mock's experience being a trans woman in America. I went in to reading this book with a base outsider's knowledge about what it means to be trans person, but I don't think you need to have much background knowledge to understand or enjoy Mock's memoir.

Overall, I thought Redefining Realness was incredibly brave. Mock reveals parts of her life that, before she began writing, she had never told even those closest to her. The book takes the reader from when Mock was a very young child figuring out that she didn't identify with the body she had and gender she'd been assigned, through her transition with her family and friends, when she told them she identified as female and asked to be called Janet, through to when she, as a young adult, fell in love with a man and had what must have been some really difficult conversations with him.

The book isn't hard to read, but it's hard to read -- you know? Her struggles and pain are clear throughout the book, and I found myself rooting for her throughout it all.

I gave Redefining Realness four stars -- mostly for her bravery in telling her story and for knowing what a difference it could make in the life of someone facing similar challenges.

Have any of you read Redefining Realness? What did you think?

PS. As always, I trust my regular readers to post only thoughtful comments. If I see anything hateful in the comments, I will delete it.


Kate said...

I actually had no real interest in reading this book. Not because of the subject matter (I actually find it intriguing in a "I want to know more about this" kind of way), but I'm usually hit or miss when it comes to memoirs.

But I'm pretty sure this is going onto my to-ready shelf now. I love having friends who read. :)

Ink Stained Page said...

I have wanted to read this and loved reading your review. I followed the Piers Morgan mistreatment as it was happening and I already find her to be exceptionally brave. Will for sure have to find a way to get my hands on it!


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