Listening to Voices of Transgender Youth

Transgender Pride flag

Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Jenna Talackova, Chaz Bono, Laura Jane Grace… Open and proud transgender people have been receiving a lot of press lately.  These transgender celebrities have publicly faced personal challenges in relation to their gender identities and many regard them as role models for transgender youth.

But we know far less about transgender teens themselves.  What are the challenges they face?  How might they be different from those encountered by popular celebrity adults?  What do they want the world to know about their experiences?

Beyond Magenta: Transgender teens Speak OutBeyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin provides readers with some helpful answers to these key questions.  This acclaimed book profiles six trans teens.  It gives readers a good look into their lives and the wide range of experiences they face.  Their accounts are honest, raw, heart-wrenching and inspiring.

Why is this book an important read?  Because of its truth.  It challenges some of our most strongly-held assumptions.  Contrary to what “gender reveal” parties would have you believe, (perceived) biological sex does not determine gender.  Traditionally, society has been quick to assign gender to a newborn when it is actually impossible to confirm it at such a young age. Many children are raised in accordance with socially-constructed norms based on their genitalia, restricting opportunities for non-conforming kids to be their authentic selves.  Strict gender categories are adhered to without thinking simply because they are familiar.  These categories can simplify our social interactions and maintain order.  But they don’t tell the whole story.  The interviewees in this book – and transgender people the world over – challenge these prevalent misconceptions.

Intersex Flag

In Beyond Magenta, the stories of teenage trans interviewees are told using their own voices.  Kuklin pieced together narratives from interview transcripts and collaborated with the teens in the editing process.  Their diverse experiences and perspectives help readers to understand that there is no one or “right” way to be transgender.  Some of the teens profiled have transitioned to various degrees within the gender binary (woman/man); one of the teens is gender non-conforming; another identifies as intersex.  Two use the pronoun “they.” These accounts are honest and moving and help to broaden perspectives and understanding of the experiences and challenges facing transgender youth, the greater transgender community, their allies and their loved ones.


While the intended audience is young adults, this is a beneficial read for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of social diversity and to gain insight into the lives of transgender people.  In Beyond Magenta, Kuklin asked Dr. Manel Silva, the Clinical Director of the HOTT (Health Outreach to Teens) Program, “What causes a person to be transgender?” She answered, “I think the question should be flipped around: What’s the cause for assuming that one’s gender identity has to be the one that you are born with? …when you hear the same stories over and over again, from people from all over the world, you start realizing that transgender is not an anomaly.  It’s part of the spectrum of people’s realities.  Then you stop wondering about the cause and you start realizing it’s a part of reality.”  (The Williams Institute estimates that more than one in 350 American adults are transgender.)

To finish up, here’s a wise, yet simple, observation from an interviewee, Mariah, “Everyone goes through one kind of transition or another.  We go through transitions every day.”

As a society, let’s work to expand our understanding of “normal” and provide trans youth with the acceptance and support they need during some of the most difficult times in their lives.  Beyond Magenta is a perfect starting point to raise awareness about the reality of the lives of transgender people and to encourage a perspective free of misconceptions.


What’s Cooking at Westwood: a Second Successful Year of Feasting!

In its second year, the What’s Cooking at Westwood? Cookbook Club met 10 times, reviewed 54 cookbooks, tasted 80 recipes, and drank countless cups of tea. Though the club includes seasoned (pardon the pun) cooks and novices alike, every meeting held a new taste or technique. For a second year, we tried new things and made new friends.

Carla made this delicious Warm Berry Sauce from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison

Carla made this delicious Warm Berry Sauce from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison

Our final meeting was a potluck, as it was last year. This year, members had a choice of making their favourite dish from the year or trying a new dish from a celebrated cookbook. In usual What’s Cooking fashion, the final potluck was a wonderful assortment of savory and sweet. We tasted spinach quiche, beer rosemary bread, mandarin orange salad and caprese salad to start. To finish we sampled from peach dumplings, cheesecake brownies and rhubarb hand-pies. It was a wonderful culmination of an exploratory culinary year.

As we enjoyed our final feast, we discussed favourite cookbooks and laughed about the meetings of 2014-2015. Highlights of our discussions were food politics, the food we ate growing up, individual cooking techniques, and in one instance, a “spirited” debate about the “correct” recipe for peanut butter cookies. We are all looking forward to another tasty and exciting year of What’s Cooking at Westwood when we resume in September.

Happy summer cooking!


The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Summer is in full swing, and everyone is outside enjoying the sun (finally!) with a good book and a frosty beverage-of-choice. It’s the ideal scenario – unless, of course, the good book you’re itching to read has an extensive waiting list. Here at the library, we do our best to keep enough copies around that you never have to wait long, but every year a few new titles come out that are so hot, we just can’t keep up with the demand.

Fear not! While you wait patiently for the latest buzz book, your friendly neighbourhood librarian will gladly recommend some alternative titles to help pass the time. Come talk to us about your favourite styles and genres, settings and time periods, plots and character types. We’ll find you a book that just might become your new favourite. To get you started, here are a few recommended read-alikes for some of the most popular books this summer. Who knows? Maybe by branching out, you’ll be ahead of the curve on the Next Big Thing!

Best Seller:

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The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins
Current Wait List: 432
Rachel, the titular girl on the train, watches a husband and wife eat breakfast on their terrace every morning as she passes them on her commute. Then the wife goes missing, and Rachel gets drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery.

Instead Try:

Nicci French Losing You

Losing You by Nicci French. A woman’s daughter goes missing, and she seems to be the only one who takes it seriously. Similar aspects: psychological suspense; set in London, England; compelling writing style; missing persons.




Tim O'Brien: In the Lake of the Woods

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien. A marriage built on mutual deception suffers when the wife mysteriously disappears. Similar aspects: psychological suspense; fast-paced; secrets; marriages under stress; missing persons.



Best Seller:

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Current Wait List: 250
This lyrical, haunting tale follows two teenagers on opposite sides of World War II until their paths inevitably collide, showing us the innate goodness that can reside in people despite the depravities of war.

Instead Try:

Julie Otsuka: The Buddha in the AtticThe Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. Six Japanese mail-order brides share their story of struggling to not just survive, but find their place in early 20th century San Francisco. Similar aspects: Literary historical fiction; moving; Second World War; spare, lyrical writing style.



Adam Foulds: In The Wolf's Mouth

In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds. Three soldiers, with different backgrounds and different goals, do their best to navigate the last days of the war in North Africa and Sicily. Similar aspects: Literary historical fiction; stylistically complex; atmospheric and dramatic; Second World War; relationships between men and women.

Best Seller:

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My Secret Sister: Twins Separated at Birth, One Sister Abused, One Loved: A Powerful True Story by Helen Edwards & Jenny Lee Smith
Current wait list: 223
Helen and Jenny, twins separated at birth, tell the story of how they grew up under very different circumstances before finding each other and uncovering a lifetime of secrets.

Instead Try:

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein
Author Elyse searches for her biological mother and discovers that she has an identical twin, also adopted. What’s more, both were part of a secret study on separated twins. Similar aspects: Autobiography; adoption; separated twins; sisters.


The Thirteenth Child by Elizabeth Jeffrey
Set in 1890s England, this is a fictional account of separated twin sisters, one raised in abusive poverty, the other in a loving and supportive family. Similar aspects: Separated twins; sisters; abusive environments; set in England.

Best Seller:

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Paper Towns by John Green
Current wait list: 132
A Florida teen nearing graduation has his humdrum life turned upside down by a quirky friend who then mysteriously disappears.

Instead Try:

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. 12-year-old Mila uses her talent for picking up unspoken cues to help her father search for his missing best friend. Similar aspects: Coming-of-age story; missing persons; observant characters; novels for young adults.



How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford. A teenage girl moves to a new school in her senior year, where she struggles with her emotions and befriends a quiet boy with a troubled background. Similar aspects: Realistic, coming-of-age story; rich dialogue; high school seniors; impactful friendships; cross-gender teenage friendships; novels for young adults.


Image of a sad dog. Image courtesy of Flickr user pinoyed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Sometimes, if the world is really unfair, you don’t even get a waitlist to help you count down. For the long-suffering diehards still waiting for George R. R. Martin to finish The Winds of Winter (and who are brave enough to tackle a new epic fantasy), try …

The Iron King by Maurice Druon. This first in a seven-book epic about the 100 Years’ War fictionalizes real stories of war, betrayal, and family drama to rival those of the Seven Kingdoms. Similar aspects: Epic; political intrigue; knights; medieval kingdoms.

The Legend of Broken by Caleb Carr. An alternate history set in medieval times in which a lone soldier must defend a fortress against threats from both within and without. Similar aspects: Epic; dramatic and suspenseful; intricately plotted; political corruption; knights and soldiers; medieval kingdoms.


Mysteries becoming Movies

If you’re not currently reading a (hopefully) great mystery novel this summer, you may be planning to soon as you head off to the cottage or beach, or enter a well-earned staycation at home. But which mystery books are being turned into worthwhile movies as we speak? What are the films on the horizon that may tempt us to read the book now – potentially during this summer’s vacation – before we see it on Netflix or at the theatre down the road?

Here are just a few of these mysteries-turned-movies that will soon be released. When I say ‘soon’, this may mean a 2016 release date!

One of my most anticipated movies is the new Sherlock Holmes movie. No, not one of the Benedict Cumberbatch TV movies, although they are excellent, especially if you like frenetic place, and neither is it a new installment of the Robert Downey Jr. version that leaves me underwhelmed. I’m talking here about an Ian McKellen – of Gandolf fame – Holmes, who is offering his charming “gravitas” to the role. I’m hoping for great things!

MV5BMTg5MjE0Njk0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTgwMjQ4NTE@._V1_SX214_AL_Mr. Holmes based on the books by Arthur Conan Doyle
(Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada)
“A new twist on the world’s most famous detective. 1947, an aging Sherlock Holmes returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper and her young son, Roger. Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits the circumstances of the unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love — before it’s too late.”

519-o3RWj3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir by Stephen Elliott
(Starring Amber Heard, James Franco, Christian Slater)
“Part memoir, part true-crime expose, this book balances two distinct stories: that of the Adderall-addicted author Stephen Elliot and his estranged relationship with his father; and coverage of the trial of computer programmer Hans Reiser, who was accused of killing his mail-order Russian bride/ex-wife, Nina. Ultimately, this novel explores the reality of addiction, the mind of a narcissistic killer, and what it means to really get to know your true self.”

1405885413062The Martian by Andy Weir
(Starring Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, and Matt Damon)
“For fans of this year’s Gravity, Andy Weir’s tale of astronaut Mark Watney, who becomes the first person to walk on Mars and likely the first to die, is for you. The book chronicles his struggle to survive as he’s stranded on the deserted planet for over a year.”

41bWDtBLTLLFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
(Starring Andrew Scott, Daniel Radcliffe, and James McAvoy)
“It’d be good to brush up on the classic Frankenstein tale before watching this contemporary film adaptation that’s told from the perspective of the hunchbacked young assistant, Igor. Here, we get an inside look at the dark origins of the conflicted young man and the early beginnings of his friendship with the young medical student, Viktor Von Frankenstein. Definitely a book (and movie) to enjoy with the lights on.” Note: The movie will be titled Victor Frankenstein.

81sc7DMQEVL._SL1500_Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
(Starring Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Nicholas Hoult)
“(This) year’s Gone Girl, this dark novel follows the story of Libby Day, whose mother and sisters were murdered in ‘The Satan Sacrifice’ of Kansas when she was just 7 years old. Day testified against her 15-year-old brother and is responsible for putting him in prison for life. Now, 24 years later, a secret society obsessed with absolving her brother of the crime hires Day to reconnect with the individuals associated with the crime and unearth what really happened.”

sand-1517641-1Cell by Stephen King
(Starring Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, and Isabelle Fuhrman)
The Walking Dead enthusiasts will be sucked into this horror/sci-fi tale where a signal transmitted through cell phones wipes the brains of millions of people around the world, turning them into animalistic zombies. We follow along as Clayton Riddel, a comic book artist who wasn’t affected by the plague, struggles to survive as he searches for his estranged wife and young son.”


MV5BNTUzNzczODQ1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDkxNzgxNjE@._V1_SX214_AL_The Secret in their Eyes by Eduardo Sacheri
(Starring Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Dean Norris)
“A tight-knit team of FBI investigators, along with their District Attorney supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered.”

black-mass-book-cover1Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill
(Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Depp, and Joel Edgerton)
“This true-crime novel tells the story of South Boston brothers, Jim “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious gangster, and Billy Bulger, a political bigwig and president of the state Senate. When their childhood friend and now FBI agent, John Connolly, returns to Boston in the ’70s to take down the Italian Mafia, Whitey gets pulled into being an informant in exchange for protection. But things quickly spiral out of control when Whitey starts manipulating Connolly and a group of corrupt FBI agents, leading to one of the worst scandals in FBI history.”

86236Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
(Starring Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella)
“In the not too distant future, two young women who live in a remote ancient forest discover the world around them is on the bring of an apocalypse. Informed only by rumor, they fight intruders, disease, loneliness & starvation.”

missperegrine_334x518Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children by Ransom Riggs
(Starring Evan Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Asa Butterfield – 2016 release)
“Teenager Jacob follows clues that take him to a mysterious island, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores the abandoned bedrooms and hallways, he discovers that its former occupants were far more than peculiar; they possessed incredible powers. And they may still be alive.”

Room by Emma Donoghue 
(Starring Brie Larson, William H. Macy, Jacob Tremblay – release TBA)
About a kidnapped woman living in captivity in a small room with her 5-year-old son. “Though the story’s chilling circumstances reflects the horrors endured by tabloid-famous abductees, Donoghue avoids all sensationalism. Instead, she gracefully distills what it means to be a mother – and what it’s like for a child whose entire world measures just 11 x 11.”

– Lyle

Getting On the Same Page: Manitoba’s Largest Book Club


Manitoba’s biggest book club is getting ready to choose what we will all be reading next year, and you can help pick the winner! On the Same Page, a project developed and run by The Winnipeg Foundation and Winnipeg Public Library, encourages all Manitobans to read and talk about the same book at the same time. There will be special events, author appearances and book giveaways throughout the winter. The choice has been narrowed down to 4 candidates, and voting closes on September 18, 2015. Between now and then you can vote for the title you’d like to see win by filling out a ballot at any of the branches of your Winnipeg Public Library system, or by simply voting online.

If you are not sure what to read this summer, picking up any of these four candidates would be a great idea. Although each of these candidates deal with serious, even tragic, subject matter, all of them have wonderful things to offer to those who discover them. I’m still undecided as to which one I’ll vote for, so if you need a little help, please read through these brief descriptions of each book. Hopefully we can get more people than ever before on the same page next year…


All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

“She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other”. Former Winnipegger Miriam Toews tells the powerful semi-autobiographical story of two sisters, Elfrieda and Yoli, who grew up together in a small Mennonite community outside of Winnipeg. Elf, who is a talented concert pianist, is also suffering from Depression and wants to end her life. Her sister, Yoli, is determined to find a way to help her sister through her illness and back to wellness, despite Yoli’s own crumbling personal life. Another masterpiece from Miriam Toews. It isn’t an easy read, but her ability to create such full and relatable characters is unmatched.

Detachment-cover-June11[1] Detachment: An Adoption Memoir by Maurice Mierau

In 2005, Maurice Mierau and his wife traveled to the Ukraine to adopt two young boys, aged 5 and 3. This book is their story of returning to Winnipeg and adjusting to life as a new family and the parallels the author draws from his own feelings of detachment towards his son and memories of his own emotionally distant father growing up. It is the only non-fiction candidate in this year’s OTSP’s program. Maurice Mierau was WPL’s Writer-in-Residence in 2010.

evolution of alice The Evolution of Alice by David Alexander Robinson

This novel tells the story of Alice, a single mother raising three young daughters on “the rez” after her abusive ex gets sent to the penitentiary. With the help of her best friend, Gideon, she tries to create the best possible life for her family and help them heal from old wounds. When tragedy strikes, Alice is forced to examine her life and her role in the community. Told from multiple points of view, the novel really underpins the interconnectivity of reservation life.

kiss_of_the_fur_queen[1] Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

“Wars start when two parties haven’t taken the time to learn each other’s tongues” Tomson Highway’s magic realism comes through in the character of the Fur Queen, a wise, shape-shifting trickster character who weaves in and out of the lives of two Cree brothers, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis. These boys are removed from their northern community and forced into the Residential School system, where their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and who are abused by the Priests there. As young men, they no longer feel connected to their community, and yet also do not feel a part of the pervasive European culture. They are somewhere in between, and must find their own path away from their own past. They are survivors in every sense of the word.


Money Saver Summer: DIY Home Repair

Summer is here in full force, both in heat, and ferocious thunderstorms. With it comes a variety of activities and vacation opportunities. If you’re a relatively new homeowner like me you might be stuck doing home repairs rather than lounging on one of our great beaches. Did you know that home maintenance can cost close to 4% of your home’s value per year?! One great way to save on those costs is to skip on calling the repairman and give DIY repair a shot. Before you charge head long into fixing that leaky faucet or that creaky storm door check out some of these great titles and arm yourself with knowledge before you swing that hammer!

DIYDIY Quick Fix: Over 100 Helpful Tips and Techniques for Repairing and Improving Your Home
Providing quick-fix techniques for tackling the most common DIY home improvement problems-from freeing stuck windows to repairing burst pipes-this handy book features step-by-step sequences, combining close-up annotated images and clear instructions that are easy to follow while completing the tasks at hand.

DIY2Complete Book of DIY, Decoration and Home Improvement: Ideas and Techniques for Decorating your Home
Includes a great section on decoration as well as home improvement tips! Your house will be working and looking great!


Handyman100 things Every Homeowner Must Know: How to Save Money, Solve Problems, and Improve Your Home
This book gives you the knowledge you need to be a better homeowner. You’ll make informed decisions, avoid frustrations and save thousands over the life of your home.


How-toThe Book of Home How-To: The Complete Photo
Guide to Home Repair & Improvement.
Clear, step-by-step instructions with full-color photography show how to accomplish the most common home repair, maintenance and improvement tasks. A complete homeowners manual for jobs that cover every part of the home, including electrical, plumbing, flooring, walls, windows and doors, kitchens, bathrooms, cabinetry, garages, basements, and exteriors.


RepairWhole House Repair Guide
The Family Handyman’s Whole House Repair Guide gives readers the know-how and confidence to tackle repair jobs, save money and avoid the hassles of service calls. We cover all of the most common repairs from floors to ceilings, from paint to plumbing. Indoors or out, large or small, this is the guide you need to do the job right.

Now you’re ready to tackle all those odd jobs that have been plaguing your house since February!



Documents to Change Hearts & Minds: Reading the Findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

On June 2 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC/Commission) held its final public gathering to release its findings after 6 years travelling the country to collect stories and testimony related to Indian Residential Schools (IRS).  The work of the Commission had been mandated as part of the Indian and Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (Settlement Agreement).

The full text of the Commission’s final report will be available at a later date but the four documents it has released are an extraordinary read:  an Executive Summary; a Principles document; a document with first-hand accounts called Survivors Speak; and Calls to Action containing the 94 recommendations of the Commission.

All four documents are written in a style accessible to many readers.  These are not “academic” documents and they are definitely not filled with legalese.  I have read all four and as I sat down to write this I knew what my suggestion would be as to which one people should read first.  In the spirit of “change hearts, then minds,” I encourage you to read first – and share widely – Survivors Speak.  To me, this is the heart-changing document of the TRC.

Most people in Canada were not in attendance when IRS survivors and others spoke to the Commission (in the end, some 7,000 witnesses gave testimony). This document provides a representative glimpse into what was shared over the past 6 years.  It is filled with long-form quotations from survivors about their experiences.  The document begins with a section where survivors shared what their life was like before they were taken from their communities. Then, among a wide range of experiences covered, there are sections about the days and moments children were taken, sections about specific forms of abuse, sections about daily routines and food, and sections where some survivors share positive moments they remember.

The document reads very quickly because of the immediacy of the survivors’ voices but, as expected, it is a very difficult document to read.  In all seriousness, I recommend people plan to read it in a time and place that will give them space afterwards to take in what they have just learned.

The Executive Summary is a very useful document particularly for people who were not familiar with the TRC and who have not yet learned about the history and legacy of residential schools. If after reading both of these documents people have the question: “How do we move forward?” the Principles document gives the TRC’s proposed answer in ten short and powerful ideas.

The Commission made 94 recommendations which it named its Calls to Action. The recommendations are very engaging and do a lot to teach about the wide-reaching legacy of the schools.  There are recommendations for the public and post-secondary education systems, others for the child welfare system and even ones about public broadcasting and a suggested change to the country’s citizenship oath – to mention just a few.

Most adults living in Canada today received little or no information about residential schools as part of their schooling.  This is one reason why Chair of the TRC, Justice Murray Sinclair, has placed such an emphasis on education being necessary for reconciliation.  In providing the country with clear and powerful documents the TRC has made a significant contribution towards mending that education gap.  We have been given the materials and the stories – it is now up to the Canadian public to engage with what has been shared.


Winnipeg Public Library ordered multiple copies of the TRC’s documents as soon as the findings were released.  They will be made available when we receive them.  We encourage people to make use of the many resources found on the TRC website.  For example, here is a map and list of residential schools from across the country identified in the Settlement Agreement. There were fourteen in Manitoba, including one in Winnipeg.  The Commission’s website also contains the biographies of all three Commissioners: the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Dr. Marie Wilson and Chief Wilton Littlechild.

To continue your learning about this topic here is a list of titles about residential schools, for adults, teens and children, available in our collection.

Monique W.