Trans Book Reviews does what it says on the tin. We review books featuring transgender or non-binary main characters. That’s it. That’s what we do here.
In May and August 2016, one of the guilty parties behind Trans Books Reviews published his first transgender novels, into an industry that pretty much promised they would go unnoticed.
They did not. In fact, both rapidly became his best-selling works. The feedback was clear: the demand is out there, but the publishing industry is not responding.
In November 2016, the same guilty party strong-armed some peers into helping with Trans Fiction Week, a project built to raise awareness of transgender representation in fiction.
The findings were, again, that people want it, but it simply isn’t there. And what little does exist is very difficult to assess without opening the book and potentially being subjected to at best ignorant misrepresentation, and at worst outright transphobia.
So here we are.
Trans Books Reviews aims to provide both a cisgender and transgender viewpoint on any story it reviews.
Because transgender stories are not just by and for transgender people. Some books with transgender stars are unashamedly for the trans audience, and if cisgender readers can’t follow along or relate, too bad. Some are the opposite, a route for cisgender readers to begin to understand, and leave transgender readers feeling like they’ve heard this all before. Yet others aim to do both at once, and yet more don’t aim to be saying anything whatsoever about transgender issues, this is about saving the world from space ebola, damn it.
And every single one of these stories is valuable.
We need stories that are just for trans people, for us and us alone.
We need stories to help our cisgender brothers and sisters understand us, and support us in carving out our places in the world.
We need stories to bring us together, and bridge the gap between us and them.
And we need stories where we simply are, and we’re having our adventures, getting the girl, and saving the world irrespective of our gender identities, our medical histories, or the markings on our birth certificates.
We need all of them.
Some of these stories need a cisgender reader to say, ‘Hey, guys, this is where you can learn.’ And all of these need a transgender reader to say, ‘Folks, this one gets it right. This one gets it.’
So this is how we work.
- Every book is reviewed by one cisgender and one transgender reviewer.
- If the book is connected to a reviewer somehow (written by them, beta- or sensitivity-read by them, etc.) then they are not permitted to have any involvement in reviewing or posting the review.
- Both reviews are posted together, side by side, so they can be read together (except on mobile platforms where this renders it unreadable; in those cases, the trans review is followed by the cis review).
- The reviewers do not discuss the book between them until this is done, so they can’t influence each other.
- Each reviewer assigns their own star rating out of five.
- These are then added together to give a total rating out of ten.
Reviews and ratings consider all aspects of the story, but the transgender representation is given special attention. So if the rep is amazing, but the story is terrible and badly-written, then the rating isn’t going to be that high. But the reverse isn’t true: a harmful rep, in no matter how beautiful a book, is never going to be excused.
We do have a backlist, but we’re always up for adding to our list, and we’d love to hear from you guys what you’d like to see, what books are about to hit the shelves, and what we might have missed.
Our requirements are simple enough:
- The book must be fictional — sorry, but non-fiction just isn’t our thing.
- The book must be available for purchase — there’s no point saying this is an amazing representation if nobody else can read it! Review copies issued prior to publication are fine though.
- The character(s) must explicitly identify as transgender or non-binary–if we could get through the book without knowing that, or who, then it’s not enough. That doesn’t have to mean there’s a coming out scene, or an ‘I am X’ line of dialogue, but we’re not interested in books claiming to be diverse without sufficient in-text evidence.
- The transgender or non-binary character must be a main character–if they’re not in the blurb, they’re probably not important enough to the story. Side characters are great and all, but we want transgender heroes to be front and centre, not sidekicks waiting in the wings.
What we do not require:
- Own voices — we absolutely love them and want all of them that we can possibly find, but we firmly believe cisgender authors can and should be writing responsible, well-researched, and positive portrayals too. It’s not rocket science.
- Approved identities — if it’s non-cisgender, it counts. There’s no super special list of transgender and non-binary identities that are ‘acceptable.’ Our only identity requirement is that at least one of the stars isn’t cisgender. That’s it. That leaves a lot of identities left to cover, and we want to see them all.
- Fame — self-published, small press, or traditional route; big-name author, or debut novella. We don’t care. We care about the story, not who wrote it. Period.