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Some Assembly RequiredReview - Some Assembly Required
The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen
by Arin Andrews
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015
Review by Catia Cunha
Feb 9th 2016 (Volume 20, Issue 6)

Some Assembly Required is the memoir of Arin Andrews' life so far and chronicles his transition from female to male. Arin began battling societal expectations at a young age when he realized his interests did not align with the other girls in his life. Furthermore, when he developed his first crush on a girl, his confusion grew because he was sure he wasn't a lesbian but didn't have any other vocabulary to describe his feelings. Presiding over all his problems is the rigid and unforgiving Oklahoma neighborhood Arin grew up in. Attending Catholic school didn't help. One day, Arin discovers Skylarkeleven's YouTube channel and all of his feelings start clicking into place. With the help of Skylarkeleven's video blogs, Arin realizes that his confusion and discomfort is a result of his gender dysphoria. Armed with the knowledge that he is transgender, Arin sets out to help his family understand his predicament and get the support he needs to become the person he was meant to be. His own struggle to communicate his thoughts and feelings lead Arin to provide as much support and community education as possible. Some Assembly Required is just one example of this outreach.

          Andrews conveys the many intricacies of his transition in a delicate and informative manner. He dispels myths about the process of transitioning in general while constantly reminding us that each individual's experience is unique. Not every transgender person wants to have all associated surgeries as part of their tradition. Neither do all transgender people take hormones. Andrews sets out to communicate his journey, complete with some of the common obstacles that many people who have questioned their gender have also faced, and he succeeds.

          Our language surrounding gender and sex is limited at best, and Andrews makes the most of what little clarity we have. While at times, his opinions are mired in the current, and inherited, stereotypes of gender (such as not feeling like a girl because he liked certain “boy” activities; or not appearing a certain way), Andrews consistently shows us that it is all right to question our genders and to seek the help we need in order to realize ourselves as the people we are. This memoir is a crucial step towards furthering acceptance and understanding of the struggles that transgender people experience.

 

© 2016 Catia Cunha

 

Catia Cunha has a BA in Theater Arts and English from Mount Holyoke College. She won Young Playwrights Inc.'s 2013 National Playwriting Competition where her short play "Legs" was presented as a staged reading at the Lucille Lortel Theatre at the culmination of the Conference. In the spring of 2013 she produced and acted in her first full-length play, ____space, which was presented at Mount Holyoke. Catia's senior project, Disinsemination, a play about feminist lesbians and aliens, was presented as a staged reading at Smith College and Mount Holyoke in Fall 2013. Mount Holyoke's Rooke Theatre produced it in March 2014. In October 2014 Catia participated in the Grex Group's Insomniacs 24-hour play festival. She is currently working on a play about sea monsters in the subway.

 


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