Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reader Response: Luna Pt. 1

Notes on my chapter-by-chapter response to reading Luna by Julie Anne Peters.

** Spoilers everywhere. **

Pre-Reading

All I know is that this is about a transgender teen. Last fall I read an adult, academic trans woman's book on her experiences and views, watched an autobiographical film about another trans woman, wrote a blog post on a neurological angle, and led a group discussion on transgender issues.

Why the interest? I felt uncomfortable about trans men and trans women, and wanted to do what I could to better understand and be more viscerally accepting beyond having an abstract ideal of acceptance. I'm not to the place I want to be yet, but it helped significantly.

I want this book to help me toward becoming a more accepting person. I also want to be able to recommend it to any teen who might be thinking about gender identity, whether it be for his or her own self, for a family member, for a friend, or because of a general interest in social justice. I want Luna to draw clear distinctions among gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. If it could be an amazing story on top of all this, that would be...just swell.

Chapter One

This is a great, short opening chapter. I was expecting a first-person narrative from Luna, but it seems we'll be seeing things through Luna's sister. The first thing I noticed is that the narrator uses female genders about Luna, even in her private thoughts. I bet this has been a secret between siblings for years, yet this is the moment Luna tells her she has settled on "Luna" for a name...and that she intends to go public this year at school. "Lia Marie" was an earlier maybe-name, but it was "too close." Guessing she was assigned "Liam" at birth.

Luna is at an uncomfortable phase of wearing wigs and dressing femme only at night, without waking up "the parental units." Interesting choice of depersonalizing language there, but that could be a defense against concerns about not being accepted. Or I'm reading too much into that term.

When the narrator tries to go back to sleep: "I studied her through a slit eye. Something was different. A change had come over her. Nothing physical. More a shift in her cosmos or maybe a crack." So there is ambiguity in her sister's thoughts. This feels more realistic and is interesting than starting the book with completely certain thoughts about a loved one's transition.

Chapter Two

Less happy about kicking off the next chapter with an italicized flashback. I did get "Liam" right. I felt like: now we'll insert a childhood scene of Liam wanting to play the mom while Regan gives into playing the dad. At least Liam was first characterized as being a curious reader.

Regan's morning reverie is exposition that's too convenient to feel natural. Now I'm feeling like the author was trying to have Regan think and define "transgender" as soon as possible for the reader. Then there was her thought about having an earlier indication that Liam was "different" but no! ...it's repressed so readers will be in suspense about this earlier scene. Yes, she's back to thinking "Liam" instead of "Luna," which is understandable enough with a new name (possibly name-of-the-week has been going on for a while)...but the masculine pronouns are there too. It's like when Liam puts on a dress, 'he' becomes 'she' in Regan's unconsidered thoughts.

Ah. Liam is her "boy role." It makes more sense for Regan to go along with that if they both see it as a performance. Luna has grown up as smart as the flashback suggested she would, and she gets annoyed by casual gender essentialist comments from dad. A dad who is uncomfortable with his wife earning more than he does.

The joke their dad told was the such a dad joke.

Mom has a drug problem. Dad has a son-must-play-sports expectation. Mom is coming off as a complex character while dad is coming off as a stereotype. Let's go weightlifting, son! No, you may not cook dinner, son. "That's not your job." Then he hears Regan explicitly say she does not want to cook and still declares she is "more than happy" to cook. He has absolutely no regard for what his children want, or say, to the point where he won't acknowledge it two seconds later.

Luna has been taking her mom's estrogen on the sly. It's too bad she can't just talk to her parents.

Glad I didn't have to wait longer for the "earlier memory" Regan teased with earlier. *sigh* I had much higher hopes at the end of the first chapter than at the end of the second. Luna and mother both come across as complex characters, but Regan and dad are hollow so far. They seem like Roles Being Filled in order to Get Points Across.

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