Student Recommendation: Tranny—Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout

By Corinne Kite-Dean, student work study assistant

Laura Jane Grace is invariably a part of the conversation when talking about transgender musicians, and this autobiography takes the reader through her personal struggles as she was fronting the ever-evolving punk group “Against Me!”, fighting the system, dealing with addiction, adapting to success, and raising a family, all while losing friends, bandmates, and suffering with intense gender dysphoria for her entire life.

The book outlines all of Laura’s life that she can remember, from her childhood living on Army bases all the way up to her beginning her gender transition at 30 years old. As a teenager, she was repeatedly assaulted by police and beat up at school, fueling her anarchist politics and laying the groundwork for an angry rebellion in the form of music. Through her music career as an adult, she was manipulated by the elites that viewed her as nothing but a dollar sign. It seems as though from the beginning, the world was against her, and she just took the beatings and came out a successful inspiration to trans people and musicians alike. For trans musicians like myself, she’s an absolute goddess.

Somehow, though it’s recounting some terrible experiences, the book doesn’t feel like it’s all doom and gloom: it treads the line of being both upsetting enough to keep you interested and funny and hopeful enough to keep you entertained. Even if you didn’t grow up listening to Against Me! like I did, I think this book is sure to resonate with something in all of us, fan or not, trans or not, musician or not.

Tranny is available at the Music Library, call number ML420.G7835 A3 2016

Staff Recommendation: Parable of the Sower

Butler, Octavia E. Parable of the Sower.

Greenfield Open Stacks PS3552 .U827 P37 2016

Science fiction makes us aware of our sight’s present limitations, highlighting the gap between what is and what could be. Octavia E. Butler’s sci-fi centers around survival as a result of dark radical shifts in future society. Parable of the Sower, published in 1993 but set in 2020s America, forces reflection onto its readers—especially when read in 2018.

The book is composed of journal entries by protagonist Lauren Olamina, a teenager born with hyperempathy, sharing the physical pain of others she witnesses. The world around Lauren is collapsing due to corporate greed, climate change, racism, hostile police presence, gun violence, and walls. Following the brutal loss of her family and neighborhood, she is forced to navigate an altered world on her own in an attempt to walk north from California with no true destination, excruciatingly hindered by her hyperempathy.

Lauren’s beam of hope in this dystopia is her development of a new belief system called “Earthseed.” Its ultimate mantra is to accept Change in order to grow—the idea that Change is the lasting truth no matter how extreme. “God is Change; Embrace diversity or be destroyed.”

Butler wrote the ideas behind Earthseed out of the American fear of the unknown, and the potential for history to repeat itself over time. As a Black writer in a world that washes over people of color and racial politics in sci-fi, Butler’s books embed race into the narrative, just as it is embedded into reality. Parable of the Sower makes us reconsider the current state of our country, placing us in a state of anxiety alongside an acceptance to move forward with empathy and power.

I absolutely recommend picking up and checking out this book at the Greenfield Library Open Stacks (call # PS3552 .U827 .P37 2016.) There is also a graphic novel adaptation of Butler’s awesome book Kindred, which can be found as an eBook through EBSCOHost. Happy reading and reflecting!

~ Recommended by Victoria Schenck, Greenfield Library Circulation Assistant