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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Missouri Author Wins Award For Transgender Teen Fiction

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Brian Katcher's 2009 novel, Almost Perfect, has been grabbing attention and awards -- it just snagged the 2011 Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award, for which he'll be recognized at June's American Library Association Annual Conference. The book, Katcher's second novel, delves into the experience of Sage, a closeted transgender girl in high school; and the emotional roller-coaster she goes through with Logan, her new friend in school, after the pair kiss and Sage reveals she was born male.

The book is set in rural Missouri, where Katcher lives with his wife and young child and teaches school. The Daily RFT chatted with Katcher, home for a snow day, about improvements in young adult fiction, edgy topics and the beauty of the internet.

RFT: So what's a husband and father in Moberly doing writing about transgender teenagers?

BK: I'm asked that frequently. I don't know; I've always supported gay rights. Ten years ago it was very edgy to write a young adult book about homosexuality. For the first time in American history, teenagers are saying 'I'm gay, and there's nothing wrong with that.'

I'm not the first person to write about this issue, even from a young adult perspective. It's one step beyond just writing about homosexuality -- to many people, being transgender is a stigma on top of a stigma.

When I was in high school, there were very few books that were aimed at teenagers. It was either Sweet Valley High or very heavy-handed preaching -- a kid smokes marijuana once and they die. Teenagers are dealing with very real problems -- concerns about the future, fitting in. Ten years ago people thought bullying was just something you had to deal with.

RFT: How did you put yourself in the headspace of a young trans person?

: All I can say is thank god for the internet. I went to places where trans people discuss their lives, I said 'I'm writing a book, would you mind if I asked you about your experiences?' It was interesting seeing how people's families reacted, learning what it takes to legally and physically change someone's gender. People were very open. I heard a lot of very heartbreaking stories and positive stories as well.

: Why set the book in rural Missouri?

BK: It would be easier for someone who is homosexual or transgender to fit in [in a city]. There are organizations, places you can go for help. There's less of a chance [in a rural setting] for someone with an alternative lifestyle to hear 'You're not weird, we can help you.' That's why Sage fell into Logan's lap.

: Have you taken any flak for addressing what could be seen as an edgy topic?

: It's been very positive. I've gotten a lot of mail from kids who've said 'I've never thought about that issue before.' They said it opened their eyes.

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