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ronnie gladden
White Girl Within
Gladden presents a thought-provoking memoir in this literary debut. At birth, the author was a Black male. But growing up, Gladden identified as a Black man with a white woman’s soul, which he describes as a transracial identity—blending transgender and transracial life elements. Written mostly in epistolary form, Gladden’s brutally honest musings first take the form of an inner white girl addressing the author, then the author addressing the intricacies of a shadow identity. Gladden and his inner white girl also take a figurative road trip, conversing and looking for answers in locations from Washington D.C. to Finland.

Gladden doesn’t sugarcoat the injustices perpetrated on Black Americans, especially Black men, (“The more melanin in the skin the more malaise and mayhem you can expect”), but believes that Eighties sitcoms such as Diff’rent Strokes heralded a new era of a world where Black and white kids could co-exist happily together. Gladden also invokes Rachel Dolezal and Dr. Jessica Krug as kindred spirits. Dolezal, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)’s Spokane, WA, chapter, identified as a Black woman, while her race at birth was white; Krug, a white former George Washington associate professor, admitted to faking being Black and Puerto Rican.

Gladden’s evocative prose has a lyrical quality (“and I am warning you directly, Ronnie. Our identity can only continue to grate, rumble, and slip against each other for so long”), which will easily draw readers into the narrative and carry them through to the final page. A helpful resources section will help readers to gain a greater understanding about complex intersectional identity. Minor grammar and editing errors distract but don’t diminish the importance or power of the story and storytelling. Anyone hoping to gain insight into the experiences of a person whose outside doesn’t correlate to their inner identification will learn empathy in the author’s wise pages.

Takeaway: A thought-provoking account of complex intersectional identity experience.

Great for fans of: Jo Ivester’s Never a Girl, Always a Boy, Jazz Jennings’s Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, Amy Ellis Nutt’s Becoming Nicole.

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