|Genre||LGBT, children's fiction, transgender|
George is a children's novel about a young transgender girl written by Alex Gino. The novel tells the story of Melissa, whom the world sees as George, as she tells her friends and family that she is a girl. As there was previously no middle grade literature that featured a transgender person, Alex Gino wrote George to fill this gap. The novel was first published on August 25, 2015, by Scholastic. Jamie Clayton, a trans actress, narrated the audio book. Alex Gino received largely positive feedback for George. However, since the story's protagonist is a young transgender person, the novel was controversial to parents and teachers, which led George to be listed on the American Library Association's list of the 10 Most Challenged Books of 2016, 2017, and 2018.
Alex Gino wrote George because it "was a book [they] wanted to read" growing up. This book is not exactly based on Gino's life because they are gender-queer, while Melissa is a girl. In addition, they grew up in different environments; unlike Gino, Melissa has access to the internet and more positive representations of the transgender community. Gino also wanted to write George because Middle-grade literature aimed for 3rd grade to 7th grade did not have any books about transgender people. They wanted to fill this hole and teach children about these issues. George simultaneously teaches kids to be tolerant of trans people, while showing children who are trans that there are other people going through similar experiences.
Gino started their work on George in 2003 before it was published on its August 2015 release date. They needed to make frequent draft revisions to adjust to the changing social environment towards trans people. In the future Gino wants George to become "historical fiction," meaning that in the future, people will wonder why people were opposed to trans people.
George was Gino's first published book; however, in September of 2019, they published You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P! which discusses the intersection of Deafness and Black Lives Matter movement. They were also featured in the anthologies Our Story Begins and How I Resist. They want to continue writing "progressive middle grade fiction," and address societal issues.
Melissa feels isolated at home and at school. At home, her mom discovers Melissa's secret collection of magazines and condemns Melissa for her interest in female magazines. At school, Melissa is still upset with Ms. Udell's reaction to her audition, and she feels distant from Kelly since Kelly got the role of Charlotte. However, as the classes' efforts to prepare for the upcoming production increased, Melissa finds a way to become the Charlotte of the stage crew. Inspired by Charlotte's courage, she gains the confidence to tell Kelly that she is a girl, and after processing this news, Kelly becomes a supportive best friend in Melissa's efforts to tell the world she is a girl. One afternoon as stage crew works, Jeff teases Charlotte; Melissa feels the instinct to protect Charlotte and runs by Jeff leaving an imprint of "SOME JERK" on his sweatshirt. After Jeff sees the damage, he punches her to punish her for ruining his favourite sweatshirt, which causes her to throw upon him. Both Melissa and Jeff are in trouble with their teachers; however, in the process of getting punished, Melissa discovers that the Principal is sympathetic to transgender people.
Later in the evening, when Melissa's mom questions her about the magazines, Melissa reveals to her mom that she is a girl. Her mom disregards her feelings, crushing Melissa in the process. On the other hand, when Melissa tells Scott that she is a girl, he thinks her feelings match her behaviour, and he offers his help and understanding to her. The night before the performance, Kelly and Melissa devise a plan for Melissa to be Charlotte in the play, which will help show the world that she is a girl. Kelly will perform in the morning, and Melissa will perform at the evening show. When it was time for Melissa to perform, people are shocked to see Melissa on stage, whom they all saw as a boy performing the role of a girl. Her mom is initially shocked at this performance but the performance later helps her become a more supportive mom to Melissa.
After the excitement of the performance, Melissa feels more comfortable with herself. When Kelly invites her to spend the day with her uncle at the zoo, Melissa takes this opportunity to show herself as she chooses because she will be surrounded by people who do not already know her as George. Dressed in Kelly's clothing, she and Kelly happily enjoy the day at the zoo.
Gino started their work on George in 2003, and the novel underwent several drafts before its August 2015 release. Gino worked closely with editors Jean Marie Stine and with David Levithan from Scholastic Corporation. One of the major edits to Gino's work was the title; the original title was Girl George (a reference to Boy George), but Scholastic changed it to George during the editing process. Prior to George's commercial release, Scholastic sent over 10,000 copies to teachers in the United States which received mixed, but largely positive feedback. The teachers and librarians who opposed the novel argued that children are too young to be discussing these issues. However, the positive feedback convinced Scholastic to increase the first printing order to 50,000 from 35,000.
Scholastic Press and Scholastic UK prints copies of George in both hardcover and softcover. Translated copies can be found in English, Spanish, French, Catalan, Chinese Complex, Danish, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Swedish and Vietnamese. Trans woman actress Jamie Clayton narrated the audio book for the novel. Clayton is best known for her starring role in Sense8. Gino felt it was important to have "trans voices to telling trans stories" to make the story feel genuine.
The School Library Journal, in a starred review, writes that George is "a required purchase" for readers interested in Middle-Grade literature. In a National Public Radio review of George, Gino points out that Melissa is not powerless when she faces her bullies, and that the novel as a whole "is a narrative about a young person who is very much trying to become who they are."
George has appeared on the American Library Association's Top Ten Most Challenged Book list every year since its publication. In 2016, it was listed at number three; in 2017 it was listed at number five, and in 2018, it was listed at number one. Parents and teachers challenge George because it features a transgender girl and her older brother's discussion of age inappropriate material. In response to the challenge against the brother, Gino believes that people are using the case against Scott to hide their underlying issues with the transgender girl.
George was selected to be one of 16 texts for the OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) for young middle school students. However, two school districts within Oregon withdrew their students from the competition as a result of the transgender protagonist and plot of the novel.
- 2016 Stonewall Book Award: Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children's Literature Award
- 2016 California Book Awards: Juvenile (Gold)
- 2016 Lambda Literary Award: LGBT Children's/Young Adult
- 2016-2017 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award
- 2016 E.B. White Read Aloud Award: Middle Reader
- 2016-2017 Georgia Children's Book (Gr. 4-8) Awards: Other Worthwhile Books for Grades 4-8
- 2015 Goodreads Choice Award: Best Middle Grade & Children's
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