In this episode, we’re celebrating Pride Month with Alex Gino. Alex is the acclaimed author of several queer and progressive middle grade novels, including Rick, You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!, and the newly-released Alice Austen Lived Here.
Alex talks with host Suzanne McCabe about Melissa, which was originally published as George in 2015. The novel introduces young readers to a transgender girl who yearns to play the role of Charlotte in her school play. The book won a Lamda Literary Award and a Children’s Choice Book Award, among many other honors. It also was the most-banned book in the United States in 2020.
“As a trans person writing about another trans person, when Melissa’s story is challenged, someone is saying that my existence is too scary, too deviant, too monstrous, to show to children,” Alex says. “It hurts.”
“I didn’t figure out who I was until I was 19, [when] I found the word genderqueer in a book.”
“I have heard so many positive, wonderful stories of people who were able to figure who they were because they saw Melissa.”
“The book doesn’t make someone trans, but it gives tools for talking about it.”
“I love hearing from adults who say, ‘This is the book I wish I had when I was a kid.’”
“A character in a book can be real in the sense [that] they have thoughts. They have beliefs. You’re inside their mind in a way that you’re often not inside the minds of real people. If my book can help someone respect who’s in the world, that’s invaluable.”
“My book would not have been banned 20 years ago because my book wouldn’t have existed. Something needs to exist, and something needs to be recognized in order to be challenged.”
—Alex Gino, author, Melissa
Producer: Bridget Benjamin
Associate producer: Constance Gibbs
Sound engineer: Daniel Jordan
Music composer: Lucas Elliot Eberl
Summer Reading • Aaron Blabey and The Bad Guys • Because of You, John Lewis