“If I Was Your Girl” by Meredith Russo
Eighteen-year-old Amanda moves away from Georgia where she’s been living with her mother, to Lambertville, Tennessee to live with her father. She needs a new start. Why? In Georgia, having been born a boy, she was Andrew, called “faggot” and had repeatedly been beaten up. Life was unbearable. And dangerous.
At her old school, when she was transitioning to being a girl, a stranger tells Amanda that she doesn;t deserve a black eye, assuming she’d gotten it from her boyfriend. Amanda tells us, “What I deserved and what I could expect in life were two different things.”
But now that Amanda has had psychological and hormone therapy, is fully transitioned, she’d love a normal life—or as normal as possible. Her alcoholic father is not altogether comfortable with his son-turned-daughter, but Amanda is his only child and she deserves a chance in “If I Was Your Girl” (Flat Iron 2016). Author Meredith Russo, a trans woman tells the story that is inspired by her life.
Amanda is tall and slim and very pretty. Both Grant and Parker, on the football team at the new school, are attracted to her. Parker is clearly a pig, but Grant is a lovely guy with a lot of his own secrets. Timid Amanda is acting very boldly. You’re terrified for her. Amanda knows she should lie low, get her high school diploma then move to New York City where she might be accepted, but Grant is so lovely—“open and honest and kind.” Amanda has never been touched this way before and it’s so wonderful to feel a degree of normalcy.
The “popular” girls at school befriend Amanda, as does an outsider bi-girl, Bea, who happens to have had a secret fling with one of the popular girls. Another of the “popular” girls is from a fundamentalist Baptist family. This all plays into the complicated plot. As a reader, you live in fear as to when and how Amanda’s secret will be discovered—because you know it will. She’s so lovely. At one point she says “I wondered if joy could ever be felt by itself without being tainted with fear and confusion.”
I had found the book insightful—about loneliness and fitting in—when I’d read it last year, but I didn’t remember it well enough to review it. So I listened to it. You know how when you listen to a book you have to first appreciate the reader and some times you’ll tolerate a reader who is not quite doing it for you. But listening to Samia Mounts read this book (Macmillan Audio)—wow! Fabulous. There are no bio notes about Samia on the CD cover. When I look on line I find she’s an actor/singer/writer/podcast creator—and I’m a fan already.
This is a brave and important book. Read it. Or listen to it.
Patricia Hruby Powell is author of the young adult documentary novel Loving vs. Virginia and Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. talesforallages.com