The best coming of age memoirs about trans kids actually written by trans people

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I didn’t identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. Even without the language to describe who I really was, I was always on the lookout for stories about other people who felt like I did—for stories, in other words, like the ones on this list. But I never found them. As the books below beautifully illustrate, the spectrum of transgender experience, and our childhoods in particular, are so rich and diverse. My hope is for these and other books like Cactus Country to encourage more trans and queer people to tell their stories so that kids like us can find characters that represent them. 


I wrote...

Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir

By Zoë Bossiere,

Book cover of Cactus Country: A Boyhood Memoir

What is my book about?

When I was 11, my family moved into an Airstream trailer in Tucson, Arizona. In Cactus Country, our trailer park home, I reinvented myself as the boy I’d always known myself to be. But I still faced so many questions about which bathroom to use, about who I was allowed to love, and about what might happen when I could no longer pass as a boy.

As a child, I couldn’t picture who I might become as an adult or where I might end up. But I never stopped looking for a book about a kid like me whose assigned gender at birth didn’t match the person they were. Cactus Country is the story I needed to hear all those years ago.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pretty: A Memoir

Zoë Bossiere Why did I love this book?

KB Brookins’ book is one of the most dynamic memoirs I’ve read in a long time.

Brookins describes a coming of age at the intersection of multiple overlapping—and at times conflicting—identities: as transgender and nonbinary, as a Black American, as a Texan, as an adoptee raised in a religious household, and many more. Their story of navigating a complicated, and at times painful, childhood and adolescence to grow into the accomplished writer, poet, and artist they are will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong.

By KB Brookins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pretty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By a prize-winning, young Black trans writer of outsized talent, a fierce and disciplined memoir about queerness, masculinity, and race.

Even as it shines light on the beauty and toxicity of Black masculinity from a transgender perspective—the tropes, the presumptions—Pretty is as much a powerful and tender love letter as it is a call for change.

“I should be able to define myself, but I am not. Not by any governmental or cultural body,” Brookins writes. “Every day, I negotiate the space between who I am, how I’m perceived, and what I need to unlearn. People have assumed things about…


Book cover of Fairest: A Memoir

Zoë Bossiere Why did I love this book?

Fairest by Meredith Talusan is an incisively observant memoir of class, ability, and whiteness, among many other subjects.

I was so enthralled by Talusan’s compelling story about living with albinism and passing as white, first in the Philippines as a child, which led to a television acting career, and later in the United States as an adult. Talusan’s deft descriptions of her journey from childhood stardom to her education at Harvard to her eventual coming out and transition hooked me from the first page and made this book so difficult to put down.

By Meredith Talusan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fairest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction

"Talusan sails past the conventions of trans and immigrant memoirs." --The New York Times Book Review

"A ball of light hurled into the dark undertow of migration and survival." --Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

A love story with the heart of Austen classics and a reflective journey of becoming that shift our own perceptions of romance, identity, gender, and the fairness of life.

Fairest is a memoir about a precocious boy with albinism, a "sun child" from a rural Philippine village, who would grow up to…


Book cover of Gender Queer: A Memoir

Zoë Bossiere Why did I love this book?

Maia Kobabe’s book is the book I wish I could’ve read growing up. I was struck so many times by the similarities Kobabe’s story shared with mine, as a kid with many of the same questions and feelings about my gender that e did.

With immersive and evocative illustrations that I couldn’t help but linger over, Kobabe’s graphic memoir took me on a refreshingly frank gender journey that was never afraid to delve into the uncomfortable.

It is also the most challenged and banned book in the country at the moment, which I think speaks volumes about the story’s capacity to change lives.

By Maia Kobabe,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Gender Queer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia's intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family…


Book cover of Pageboy: A Memoir

Zoë Bossiere Why did I love this book?

Elliot Page’s book is an engaging, worthwhile celebrity memoir. As a longtime fan of Page’s film performances and a trans person myself, I was so inspired by his public coming out and transition.

In his book, Page took me behind the scenes for an exclusive look at the unglamourous sides of Hollywood stardom—especially the ways the industry has historically been harmful to trans actors, many of whom, like Page, were encouraged to stay in the closet. I also appreciated that Page, as a celebrity, wrote the book himself without the help of ghostwriters.

By Elliot Page,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Pageboy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Full of intimate stories, from chasing down secret love affairs to battling body image and struggling with familial strife, Pageboy is a love letter to the power of being seen. With this evocative and lyrical debut, Elliot Page captures the universal human experience of searching for ourselves and our place in this complicated world.

'Can I kiss you?' It was two months before the world premiere of Juno, and Elliot Page was in his first ever queer bar. The hot summer air hung heavy around him as he looked at her. And then it happened. In front of everyone. The…


Book cover of A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings

Zoë Bossiere Why did I love this book?

Will Betke-Brunswick’s book is a gem of a graphic memoir that skillfully navigates both hope and loss.

As much a story about coming of age in a queer body as an illness narrative, I was struck by the playful tone of the illustrations (Betke-Brunswick depicts themself and other human characters as penguins) juxtaposed against the serious nature of the subject matter—the slow goodbye and ongoing grief of losing a mother to cancer. It’s a combination that doesn’t seem like it should work, but the resulting story is resonant and unforgettable.

By Will Betke-Brunswick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Finalist for the 2022 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ+ Comics

A Modern Mrs. Darcy's Best Book of Fall

A Shondaland Best Book of November

“Filled with moments of tenderness and humor.” ―Library Journal, Starred Review

An unexpected and poignant debut graphic memoir about a close-knit family approaching loss, and the wonder and joy they create along the way.

During Will Betke-Brunswick’s sophomore year of college, their beloved mother, Elizabeth, is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. They only have ten more months together, which Will documents in evocative two-color illustrations. But as we follow Will and their mom…


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Book cover of Leora's Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

Joy Neal Kidney Author Of What Leora Never Knew: A Granddaughter's Quest for Answers

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the oldest granddaughter of Leora, who lost three sons during WWII. To learn what happened to them, I studied casualty and missing aircraft reports, missions reports, and read unit histories. I’ve corresponded with veterans who knew one of the brothers, who witnessed the bomber hit the water off New Guinea, and who accompanied one brother’s body home. I’m still in contact with the family members of two crew members on the bomber. The companion book, Leora’s Letters, is the family story of the five Wilson brothers who served, but only two came home.

Joy's book list on research of World War II casualties

What is my book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one; all five sons were serving their country in the military–two in the Navy and three as Army Air Force pilots.

Only two sons came home.

Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.

By Joy Neal Kidney, Robin Grunder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Leora's Letters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the…


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