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Literature / George

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George is a novel by Alex Gino, a non-binary author using they/them pronouns, first published in 2015 by Scholastic.

George, the main character, is a fourth grader who struggles with her gender identity. She was born biologically male, and is seen as a male by everyone else in her life, but she knows she is actually a girl. She likes looking at fashion magazines, but she keeps these a secret from her family, not ready to tell her older brother, Scott, or her single mother about her gender. When her teacher, Ms. Udell, encourages the children to audition for roles in the school’s production of Charlotte’s Web, George desperately wants to play Charlotte the spider, though Ms. Udell won’t let her because Ms. Udell still sees her as a boy and thinks that boys can’t play Charlotte. With the help of her best friend Kelly, George finds a way to not only play Charlotte, but also let everyone know who she really is, which is a girl named Melissa.

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A companion novel, Rick, was released in 2020, centering around one of Melissa’s middle school classmates, who struggles with his sexuality.

Due to regret over deadnaming Melissa in the title, Gino now refers to the novel as Melissa's Story.


Some tropes seen in this book:

  • Best Friend: Kelly and Melissa are best friends.
    Kelly:Don’t you get it? We can go as best girl friends. We can dress up and everything!
  • Character Title: George, as well as its sequel Rick, are titled after their respective protagonists.
  • Children's Literature: Melissa is in fourth grade, meaning that the target audience is young children.
  • Coming-Out Story: This trope in spades. By finding a way to make her mother, teacher, and classmates accept her as Charlotte, Melissa is able to come out to them as transgender, as well. Her arc throughout the story is figuring out what being a girl means to her, as well as being accepted for who she truly is.
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  • Disappeared Dad: Melissa’s mom is a single mother, and her dad is revealed to have left the family three years before the story starts.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: Melissa’s mom, for the first half or so of the book, has no idea that her youngest identifies as female, and goes through a period of shock after realizing this.
  • Gender Reveal: Happens twice to Melissa. Once, when she confesses to Kelly about her gender identity and again when she comes out as transgender to her mother.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Kelly defends Melissa wanting to play a girl role by saying it's not like she wants to be a girl...which she does. In fact, part of the reason Melissa wants to play Charlotte is because it would be a way for the world to finally see her as female.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Melissa's older brother Scott is a little rude, abrasive and irresponsible but after Melissa opens up to him about being a girl, Scott is totally understanding and accepting of his sibling being trans.
  • LGBT Awakening: A variant on this trope; accidentally discovering a fashion magazine in the recycling at the library was the start of Melissa’s secret collection, leading her to realize that she was really a girl.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Before they properly understand Melissa’s gender identity, her mother and brother think she is merely a homosexual boy, which she later corrects as she figures out what “transgender” means to her.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: A version of this occurs when Melissa’s mom finds her stash of fashion magazines and confiscates them.
    Mom: George, I don’t want to find you wearing my clothes. Or my shoes. That kind of thing was cute when you were three. You’re not three anymore. In fact, I don’t want to see you in my room at all.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Gino believes the narration using she/her pronouns for Melissa, while still calling her the masculine name 'George,' reflects the disconnect trans people feel from their bodies and societal perceptions.
  • School Play: The kids are putting on a production of the classic tale Charlotte's Web. Several scenes are dedicated to the production of the stage play and the performance gets a good amount of page time.
  • Slice of Life: As this is a contemporary story, the major conflict is Melissa’s struggles to be accepted as a girl and dealing with various character’s reactions to her gender.
  • Trans Tribulations: The story is about the struggles of a trans girl trying to find who she is.

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