Finally, the first book finished on the A-Z Reading Challenge! I feel slightly accomplished. And without further ado:
Chris Bohjalian's Trans-Sister Radio was simply fascinating. I've read a few of his other books and this one did not disappoint. The thing that I like about Bohjalian is that none of his books touch on the same topic. Yes, similar themes run throughout every book of his I've read, but the way in which he approaches those themes is remarkably refreshing. Because of this, and his writing style, he's quickly become one of my favorite contemporary writers.
In my latest foray into this author's work I ventured into the world of the transgendered male. The novel is told from the perspective of the four main characters: Dana, the transgendered lead, Allison, Dana's lover, Will, Allison's ex-husband, and Carly, Will and Allison's nineteen year old daughter. Interspersed between each of the different viewpoints are excerpts from a NPR interview ran on the All Things Considered program which tells the story of Dana and Allison's struggles to be a couple in a small Vermont town.
One of the aspects that I truly enjoyed while reading this novel was the characters' constant allusions to what would transpire. The reader is always kept in the loop and is able to speculate the events that are soon to occur. While this may seem like something that most don't like in their literature, Bohjalian's presentation fits the themes and the stylistic structure in which the novel is written. You truly feel for these characters and those feelings continually change as the book progresses: anger, sadness, incredulity, pain, happiness...it runs the gamut.
I think that the part of the novel I found most interesting, and angering, was the portrayal of the school and townspeople's attitude toward the relationship between Dana and Allison. The fluidity of personal and professional life is constantly called into question and ethics and morality are heavily depicted. As an educator, I found myself most definitely on the side of Allison. Yes, we should act as a moral compass for the students who attend our classes, yet where do you draw the line? Where does privacy start? That's the question constantly asked throughout this novel and it's one that, because of the delicate nature of the subject and situation, is never fully resolved.
As a reader you are able to see Dana and Allison's relationship run the course and you also receive a glimpse of their lives after the dissolution of their relationship. We're told from the beginning that the two don't end up together, but Bohjahlian definitely offers the reader a wonderful twist that, as a close reader, you would speculate.
Ultimate comment: definitely worth the journey into a thoughtful, sensitive approach to an extremely controversial topic. A+