Enter to win a copy of I.W. Gregorio’s None of the Above or Victoria Aveyard’s The Red Queen in OKPotato’s April Giveaway!
Here at OKP, we are desperate for diversity in the YA genre because:
A) We remember what it was like looking for representation of ourselves when we were in high school, and
B) It seems to be the genre that could reach the widest audiences with the most promising results (i.e. acceptance, understanding, and continued diversification).
So imagine my shock at discovering an upcoming YA release about an intersex teen written by an Asian-American novelist-slash-surgeon.
None of the Above is the debut novel of Ilene Wong Gregorio, a practicing MD who was inspired to pen her first YA work after helping her first intersex patient through the initial diagnosis. Though she never found out what happened to this patient in the long-run, Gregorio posits a journey from discovery to the beginnings of acceptance (self and societal) for the protagonist of her story, high school senior Kristin Lattimer.
Kristin is a pretty typical YA protagonist: white, straight, able-bodied, pretty, and reasonably popular. Everything seems to be going more than well — college to look forward to, a big win at Homecoming — until Kristin’s first time with her boyfriend, Sam. The pain during the first attempt lingers long enough that Kristin goes to her gynecologist, who discovers that Kristin not only lacks a uterus but has male gonads (or testes) and has XY chromosomes, not XX.
All these factors seem to point to the fact that Kristin has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), one of many different forms of intersex. In short, she is not distinctly male or female. In Kristin’s case, she presents outwardly as female, but has male sex characteristics internally.
The story follows Kristin as she grapples with what this diagnosis means and how she identifies with herself with this new definition. She must learn the different between chromosomal sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. And she must deal with “coming out” to her family, friends, boyfriend, and the peers who once voted her Homecoming Queen.
Intersex representation in fiction, to say nothing of YA fiction, is basically non-existent, so it’s hard for me to review this book without that in mind. Gregorio handles Kristin’s internal conflict realistically and well, juggling her inability to self-identify with the need to move towards knowledge and acceptance of her condition. You can see more in the above video, “What It’s Like to be Intersex.”
(More on the book behind the cut.)