Piper Huxley’s Top 5 Book Recommendations

Image is a green and brown collage theme. Text reads ‘5 book recommendations’ in bottom right. Above it is a photo of Piper, a white trans woman with curly hair, pink lipstick and black liquid eyeliner. To the left are three book covers, tell me I’m worthless, girl woman other, and detransition baby.

Hey pals!

Long time no speak, I’ve decided I want to start a little series on my blog where my friends with very different reading tastes recommend 5 books they love (but this may also branch out to other things like films, TV shows, plays, who knows! but for now it’s books!) and introduce you all to other online creatives, their style, and their work! First off we have Piper, who is not new to the blog, I’ve interviewed her for both the Elliot Page post as well as the White Privilege post. So, I’m excited for you to check out her top reads.

Piper Huxley (she/her) is a transgender woman currently living in the south of England. She studied English Literature and Theatre Studies at the University of Reading. Now, Piper is a full-time content writer and creator. Her passions include starting projects that she will never finish, listening to some trashy indie record or staring at her pile of unread books – which seems to be mysteriously growing…

Some links will be Artie’s affiliate links to purchasing the books mentioned!

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

First on my list – obviously – is Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters. When this book came out last year, I remember thinking: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this.” Of course, since, I’ve diversified my reading pool – looking at smaller, indie publishing houses for my books. 

But, Detransition, Baby was my first taste of what transgender fiction should be, what representation needs to look like and a trans person protagonist that I could relate to. I’m not saying that Reese and I are the same. On the contrary, we live very different lives. But, I found solace in Peters’ messy world of sarcasm and chaos. I was very much enthralled by it.

So, the book itself! This book is super impressive. So impressive, it was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Peters’ debut was cynical, heartfelt and honest. Essentially, the book surrounds the character of Reese – a transgender woman living in New York. She is contacted by her ex-lover, Ames, who is a de-transitioned transgender woman; Ames has got a woman pregnant and wants to co-parent with Reese – who is desperate to be a mother! 

Not only is this book witty and its characters complicated, but it’s a good choice for someone who is open-minded about the complexity of transgender life: the good, the bad and the ugly. Detransition, Baby thrives on its unconventional nature. There were parts in this novel when I was glued to the story – it was hard to prise my eyes away from the page. However, I found myself putting the book down after an intense scene – and sitting in silence – just so I could process what just happened.

It’s a wild, crazy ride of a novel. It’s nothing like you’ve read before.

Support the blog and buy a copy of the book here!

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Next, is Alice Oseman’s masterpiece. OK – wait – before the Heartstopper stannies jump on me… listen! I love Heartstopper and all of it represents – but, there’s more to Alice Oseman than Nick and Charlie. She has written other characters with far more interesting stories… Sorry about it. Though it’s not my personal favourite, Radio Silence is objectively Alice Oseman’s best novel… It’s hard for me to say that as a die-hard Solitaire fan – but needs must. 

Radio Silences protagonist is Frances, a study machine who is determined to get the best grades, get into the best university and start her life as an academic. Her time consists of studying and geeking out over her favourite podcast Universe City – which she keeps a secret from her friends at school. Nobody knows the real Frances. That is until she meets Aled – and her life begins to take a turn. Her past comes to confront her – but is she ready to face them?

OK – I know that, albeit, brief synopsis sounds a little cliché – but I don’t want to give anything away. This novel is something you need to sit down and devour yourself. The book starts out as any typical YA should: with a loveable protagonist and a blossoming friendship. One of my favourite parts of the book is a disclaimer(?) from Frances that Radio Silence is not a love story: 

“You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl. I just wanted to say – We don’t. That’s all.” (p.73). Coincidentally, “This is not a love story” was the tagline for Oseman’s debut Solitaire – which turned out to be, you guessed it, just that. If anything, Radio Silence explores platonic love in a way that I’ve never seen before.

This is a departure from other YA novels I’ve read. And I’m not mad at it. 

We all need an Aled in our lives. Just saying.

Support the blog and buy a copy of the book here!

Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

OK. I feel like I’ve been telling everyone I know about how much I love Tell Me I’m Worthless. Sure it’s messed up and it was a hard read, but I loved it. If I see it in a bookshop, I pick it up, hold it in my hands and think about how this novel made me feel. Sometimes I flick to a random page and reread it – just to remind myself that this book is real. Someone wrote this! 

How did I discover such an impactful book? I was doom-scrolling on Twitter when I saw a thread about independent publishing houses and how important it was to support them. So, I clicked on a few links. Before I knew it, I had ordered about five titles. Colour me surprised. My bookcase is overflowing – and it’s bordering on ridiculous. Tell Me I’m Worthless was one of them. I felt like I had lucked out that day. I’d found a queer horror novel from a queer publisher.

Let me say this: Alison Rumfitt’s debut is astounding. The book is about Alice, a transgender woman, who spent one night in an abandoned house with her friends Ila and Hannah. Since then, things have not been going well for her – or Ila for that matter. According to the blurb, Alice is living “a haunted existence” – which is very apt. Alice and Ila, now estranged – since the incident, reunite at the house to rescue Hannah – but the house has other plans for them.

Another cool-ass sounding book. For a lover of horror and getting spooked, I must admit, I hadn’t read a great deal of horror. As for transgender horror, I didn’t know such a genre existed. To be honest, my life was a neverending “transgender horror” – so, I could relate. How accurate these feelings were. Not only does this book place you in the middle of a horrible and frightening supernatural tale, but you’re witnessing a culture war simultaneously – which is a mindfuck.

Poor Alice is battling ghosts one minute, TERFs the next. I don’t know which is more frightening, if I’m honest. One of the main themes is radicalisation – and how it’s swept across England. Indoctrination is happening at every corner. This book really captures the essence of the UK and the political climate it’s currently mired in.

Support the blog and buy a copy of the book here!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Of all the books on my list, Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl Woman Other is the one I tell everyone to read. It came to the point in my literature degree where I was sick of the sight of a book. I’d neglected my personal reading greatly and I felt so unhappy with myself. Why wasn’t I reading? I was buying books, of course, but they stayed sat on my shelf – collecting dust. 

On a trip to my favourite shop in my university town, a zero-waste eco-friendly resource centre which had a little shop. (I’m always up for browsing a little shop) Like I had a dozen times before, I ran my fingers along the bookshelves – but, one day, I found this gem. What had enticed me to this title? I think I was intrigued by the “other” segment of the title. What did that mean?

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. I loved this book for so many reasons. Firstly, the structure was heavenly. It was divided up into chapters about each individual – and they were just manageable – not too long to bore me, or too short to leave me wanting more.

Next, the form. The way these stories were written was nothing short of beautiful. The prose was like poetry. In fact, I think it could pass as poetry. It was rhythmic, descriptive and rich with so much emotion. This is exactly what I want from a novel: ordinary things told beautifully. But, I must admit, there were a lot of things about this novel that was the opposite of ordinary. I found myself gasping at the sheer beauty of the words, the emotions, the plots and the characters.

One of my favourite quotes comes at the very end of the novel:

“This is not about feeling something or about speaking words

this is about being

together.”

If you don’t fancy reading it, this masterpiece is on BBC Sounds in the form of an audio series. (note from Artie: I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was incredible so HIGHLY recommend that too! I read this on Piper’s recommendation too.)

Support the blog and buy a copy of the book here!

Female Husbands by Jen Manion

OK – so, I do read non-fiction sometimes. Recently, I gave Female Husbands a go – and I really liked it. It took a little while to get through – mostly because I was reading a fiction novel or two alongside it. Plus, I’m one of those people who read a non-fiction book with a pencil and scribble ideas in the margins. This book is a respectful, contemporary look at the lives of some extraordinary people – whose stories have been sensationalised and demonised. 

Female Husbands is a historical book written by a professor of Gender and Sexuality, Jen Manion. In this title, Manion discusses United States and United Kingdom historical material from 1746 to 1910: including newspapers, court records and biographies. This is to recount and expand on the lives of more than a dozen people who were assigned female at birth – however, interacted with society as men. There were even some who legally married women.

The tagline “A Trans History” is an interesting one. I think it’s important to to look at these stories of Female Husbands through a modern lens. Before us is a diverse world that is steadily becoming more attuned to the idea of someone transing gender. If anything, this book – and the historical content inside –  is the perfect companion to this age of gender fluidity, ambiguity and liberty. Manion is a great storyteller.

Most interesting of all – perhaps – was the research into the legislation regarding crossdressing and transing gender. It wasn’t actually illegal to trans gender during the Victorian Era. So, these people were met with other convictions like fraud and vagrancy. In fact, it felt like authorities were out of their depth when met with a Female Husband – and didn’t know what to do. Even so, sometimes, a Female Husband on trial may have been a pillar of a community – well known, respected and loved. In court, these inspiring people would defend their right to live as men.

Each story was very special and I felt myself getting attached to these wonderful people who lived extraordinary lives. Manion has written an important and impressively-researched book.

You can even listen to it on audio!

Support the blog by buying a copy of this book here!

I think Piper has done an incredible job of opening up this series of book recommendations, I can see myself struggling with the impulse of buying more books thanks to everyone’s posts. Someone take my bank card away from me!

If you want to follow Piper and all that she does, you can follow here on Instagram and Twitter under @PiperHuxley, and check out her other links and portfolio on her link tree!

~

I hope you enjoyed this post! Leave a like and a comment to let me know! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Check out my Kofi and become a member!

~ Artie

(they/them)

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