Happy Families

The novel Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis was a great read after watching Transparent. The themes are similar, because they both feature a father facing a transition and how that affects their families. However, Happy Families differs in a significant way because it is about a Black family.

Intersectionality is defined as “the theory that the overlap of various social identities, as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual.” I think that, when discussing intersectionality in the classroom, Happy Families can be a great tool. Christine, the father of Ysabel and Justin, is living in the world as a Black trans woman. American society isn’t really safe for Black trans women, because they often face violence and discrimination. Just this year, 3 women were murdered in Louisiana. However, this wasn’t brought up in the media because these stories are too often ignored. I personally didn’t know about it until just now despite it happening over a month ago. 

Although so much violence and discrimination exists against Black trans women, Christine is able to live pretty comfortably in Happy Families and focus on her relationship with her children. Not only is she going through a transition, her children are also facing many changes in their lives. So, this story is about more than just accepting someone’s identity, it is about family and compromise. I think it’s great that this story of identity is settled in with this story of family because it adds to the realism of it all. Too often, trans people (and people of color) are reduced to tragic events in the media. However, Tanita S. Davis manages to write a heartfelt and informative story about what it’s really like to be trans and navigate the world.

Since the book alternates between perspectives, it would be easy to utilize in the classroom. Teens can relate with Ysabel and Justin as they go through school and their relationships with their peers. They can also understand how they might be affected by their parents divorce and the transition on top of it all. I think that Happy Families is a great novel for young adults that might want to learn more about transgender identities and intersectionality.


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