A Book by a Trans or Non-binary Author: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge

May 2, 2022 | Kasey K

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TPL Reading Challenge 2022

In our first virtual Reading Challenge event of 2022, we asked the audience what category they thought would be the most challenging to complete. "A book by a trans or non-binary author" is one of the ones that came up. It is a bit more of a niche category than some of the others, but I think that can make it easier. Categories that are more broad leave me with decision paralysis (after all, couldn't almost any book at all be seen as being about family or time?) How do I even begin to choose? (If you have the same problem, though, those links will give you a jumping-off point!)
I'll start with some quick definitions. Trans, or transgender, is a term for someone whose gender identity is different from their gender designated at birth. Authors who are trans or non-binary may use other terms to describe their gender, such as agender, genderqueer, genderfluid and more.

Trans and non-binary people are certainly a small part of the overall population, but our voices have been growing and we've been given a broader stage over the last decade or so. Now is a great time to find books by trans and/or non-binary authors. In fact, there were so many wonderful staff recommendations for this category, I wasn't able to use them all here! It warmed my sometimes-cynical non-binary heart, I have to say.
But before we get to those, here are my choices for a book by a trans or non-binary author (ironically, I did have trouble narrowing this down after all)!

Tomboy Survival Guide

Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote

I would love to recommend everything Ivan Coyote has ever done if I'm being honest. They're a truly incredible storyteller and a beautiful writer. Their grace and dignity in sharing difficult and painful stories, as well as their undying love of learning other people's stories have inspired me to be a better, more compassionate person. The stories in Tomboy Survival Guide explore Ivan's experiences as they struggled to fit in growing up as a 'tomboy' in the Yukon, and their ongoing journey into butch, trans and non-binary identities and they will touch your heart if you let them.

Other Reading Challenge categories:

  • a book about family
  • a book about mental health
  • a book about an issue that is important to you (to me, anyway!)


Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

This is a gorgeous young adult novel of magical realism, by a non-binary Nigerian author. The book follows Jam, a 17-year-old trans girl living in an apparently utopian society that has eliminated all their 'monsters' - long enough ago that Jam isn't really sure what a monster is. Jam's mother is an artist known for paintings of surreal supernatural creatures, and when Jam has an accident in her studio and bleeds on a work in progress, the terrifying creature inside comes to life! He means no harm though, and tells Jam he has come to hunt down a monster. Jam, intrigued, names the creature Pet and recruits her closest friends to help Pet track down this other mysterious monster.

Other Reading Challenge categories:

  • a coming-of-age story by a BIPOC author
  • a book about art


Staff Recommendations

And here are some of the recommendations from other TPL staff.

The Subtweet

The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya

This book felt very honest in its portrayal of complicated friendships among women and centred the narrative on women of colour in a world, and industry (in this case, the music industry) that typically relegates them to the margins. 

Shraya is a Canadian trans woman and multimedia artist. Librarian Reagan also recommended another of her books, People Change.

Other Reading Challenge categories:

  • a book about art

—Sephora, Senior Branch Head


Like a boy but not a boy

Like a Boy But Not a Boy by Andrea Bennett

This essay collection intersperses memoir with interviews from other queer people from small Canadian towns. It is illuminating about experiences of pregnancy for non-binary parents, and is also a compelling memoir about navigating gender, class, small town queer experiences, and their work as a writer and a bike mechanic.

Other Reading Challenge categories:

  • a book about mental health
  • a book about family

—Kieran, Page


I hope we choose love

I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World by Kai Cheng Thom

This was a long awaited arrival for me. Kai Cheng Thom's work on transformative (and loving) justice has had a profound impact on the way I relate to harm and conflict. Her nuanced approach to accountability and care is deeply needed, and her destabilization of performative and punitive applications of justice in queer community provides a really important critique that opens into other possibilities of living together well.

—Kendra, Librarian


Cemetery Boys

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys is a beautifully told coming-of-age and coming out story filled with magic, wonder, and heart. It is also #OwnVoices. The main character is a trans, queer, Latinx boy from California, as is the author and the audiobook narrator.

Other Reading Challenge categories:

  • A coming-of-age story by a BIPOC author
  • A book about magic
  • A book about family
  • A book about someone who is not alive

—Morgan, Librarian


Child of a hidden sea

Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica

Have you ever wanted to find yourself suddenly flung into a fantasy world? Do you have a thing for pirates? Are you stubborn and want to prove yourself to the world? Well if so, you're in luck because this is the book for you. And the book for me. Pirates are in this year and every year! (If you understand that reference, we should be friends). Thrust into a world of turmoil, Sophie has to decide if she wants to embrace this strange place or try to return to the earth she knew before. Dellamonica is a non-binary author. And a Torontonian! 

Other Reading Challenge categories:

  • a book by an author from Toronto

—Ames, Librarian


Gender Queer

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

I originally picked this book up because it was getting so much attention from the extremely vocal censorship advocates who are having a field day in schools and libraries at the moment. Gender Queer is a beautiful, moving book about Kobabe's search for eir place in the world and the journey of explaining eir identity to eir family. I've really enjoyed interacting with graphic memoirs, and I love how the medium serves autobiography. A great choice for fans of Fun Home.

—Kate, Librarian


Redefining Realness

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

A memoir of Janet's teenage years and her transition. Janet is a black and Indigenous director for the show Pose and is a contributing editor for Marie Claire and People magazine. She writes with a lot of candor about her family, growing up trans, and the difficult and painful steps it took to claim her true identity. I've mostly read books about white trans-men or non-binary folks, so this story is refreshing and a gem among many memoirs about trans people.

—Lucas, Librarian


Cheer Up

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, Val Wise & Oscar O. Jupiter

This is such a sweet, satisfying graphic novel. The characters are super and the art is fun and full of colour. Highly recommended! 

—Jennifer, Branch Head


French Recommendations

If you like to read in French, check out the list of recommended books for "les autuer.e.s trans" - there's a mix of books, ebooks and digital audiobooks to try!

Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the suggested titles from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2022 discussion group. You can read all of the responses in the original post. You do not need a Facebook account to read the suggestions.


For even more recommendations in this category, you can attend our live virtual event on May 19th, 2022 7-8pm, with hosts Lucas and Kasey (that's me!).  

What would you recommend for "a book by a trans or non-binary author”? Add your suggestions in the comments section below.