Friday, 22 March 2013

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

About the book
Parrotfish is a young adult book by Ellen Wittlinger. It was published in America by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on 10th July 2007 and the book is 294 pages long.

Synopsis (Taken from
Angela Katz-McNair has never felt quite right as a girl. Her whole life is leading up to the day she decides to become Grady, a guy. While coming out as transgendered feels right to Grady, he isn't prepared for the reaction he gets from everyone else. His mother is upset, his younger sister is mortified, and his best friend, Eve, won't acknowledge him in public. Why can't people just let Grady be himself?

Grady's life is miserable until he finds friends in some unexpected places -- like the school geek, Sebastian, who explains that there is precedent in the natural world (parrotfish change gender when they need to, and the newly male fish are the alpha males), and Kita, a senior who might just be Grady's first love.

What I thought
As part of one of my university classes, I have to write an essay on a topic of my choosing as long as it fits with the Gender and Sexuality subject. The book from the course I am using is Trumpet by Jackie Kay and I’m writing about transgender. This led me to browsing books on Amazon about the subject and I came across this one.

Parrotfish is told from protagonist Grady’s point of view. However, Grady was actually born a girl although has never felt like one. Set in modern day America, Grady comes out to his family as transgendered and expresses his wishes to be called Grady, instead of Angela. Grady was a cute character, knowing exactly who he was and what he wanted out of life. It was refreshing to see someone so confident in themselves, especially someone going through the struggles of people understanding him. Grady has a wonderful narrative voice, if not a bit juvenile at times.

This book is all about coming out as transgendered and other people’s reactions. Society can still be very harsh when it comes to people a little hard to understand sometimes, people who are different from the norm. Not only does this book show Grady’s struggles at school but also in his home life. While his father is pretty understanding, just wanting Grady to be happy, his mother is not quite the same. She has trouble understanding why Angela wants to be called Grady, why her precious daughter chopped off her hair and wears boys clothes from a charity shop. Ellen Wittlinger shows that sometimes it is family members who have the hardest time accepting change and I think she did a great job in showing this through Grady’s mother.

At school, Grady’s life is far from easy. Most of the other kids don’t know what to do or say when teachers start calling Angela Grady. Some of the kids don’t really have a problem with him at all but then there are a select few characters who are determined to make Grady’s life hell. I felt so sorry for Grady during the times set in school because all he wanted to do was get on with his life as he felt was right but instead, he was subjected to some quite harsh bullying. However, there are some saviours at school for Grady such as his gym teacher and new found friends Sebastian and Kita. These secondary characters were fantastic and it was nice to see that Grady did have people that understood him.   

Parrotfish is heart-warming and extremely informative about a subject I barely knew anything about. Wittlinger’s writing makes you fall in love with her characters and really hope everything works out okay for them. 

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