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Patti Hornstra
When He Was Anna

Adult; Other Nonfiction; (Market)

My child is transgender. He was once a she. When He Was Anna: A Mom's Journey Into the Transgender World is a mother's brutally honest story of the stress and confusion that consumed her family in the early years of her child's transition from female to male. In the end, there is one certainty--the struggle is real; so is the love. In "When He Was Anna: A Mom's Journey Into the Transgender World," Patti courageously shares her doubts, anxiety, and gut-wrenching questions she has about her teenager's difficult choice. In this beautiful, raw, and emotional book, Patti bares her soul. Through humor and candor, Patti shares her journey and allows other parents a chance to honestly explore their feelings so they can make their way through the complicated world of parenting, pronouns and loving a transgender child.
Debut author Hornstra details a parent’s route down an unknown road with this deeply honest memoir about being the parent of a transgender child and, eventually, adult. At sixteen, Hornstra’s youngest daughter announces that he is transgender, now identifies with male pronouns, and now calls himself Lucas. Roughly three years, several therapists, and many arguments and hurt feelings later, Lucas, now known as Tristan, affirms his gender choice, although his explosive rage regarding his parents’ skepticism about testosterone therapy and top surgery cuts a deep schism through Tristan’s relationships with Hornstra and her husband.

More a story of Hornstra’s struggles than of Tristan’s transition, Hornstra reflects on her feelings and thoughts without apology, describing her path to coming to “accept” Tristan despite still not fully understanding. Hornstra acknowledges early on that she can’t always be “politically correct,” a term she uses thoughtfully rather than as a point of pride, and that writing this book is part of her process of coming to terms. The emotions are still raw: “I hope that one day Tristan sees me as two things,” she writes. “1) a mama who was strong enough to never go over the edge, no matter how close she got, and 2) a mama who loved her no matter what.” Many passages are difficult to read without strong feelings, scenes that were undoubtedly even harder for the family to live through.

Hornstra reports that she still struggles to use male pronouns consistently, although it pains her when others make the same mistake or simply refuse. She does not address her choice to use Tristan’s deadname in the title, though she notes that the book has won “The Tristan Seal of Approval”—and that she’d not have published without it. A glossary of up-to-date terminology demonstrates her engagement with issues of language, identity, and power, while the book itself lays bare her own journey, warts and all, possibly helping other parents arrive at acceptance—and maybe even understanding.

Takeaway: This honest, unflinching account of parenting a transgender child will help other parents understand.

Great for fans of: Amy Ellis Nutt’s Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, Telaina Eriksen’s Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child , Jazz Jennings’s Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A