One of the people in my support group started this topic. Most of the people chimed in quickly, but I held off. Frankly I was too busy to write anything, but also because I wanted to narrow my field.
Most people chose the same books: She's Not There, My Husband Betty, Whipping Girl, Wrapped in Blue...
I chose a couple of those, but not all. My reasons are my own.
What follows is what I sent to the group, lightly edited for people's anonymity and to keep certain things private.
I've given this a LOT of thought. As a former English teacher (and current book store drone) I obviously read many many books. But changed my life? Well, some of them, weren't GD related when you first think about them.
She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
This book needs no introduction as most of you have read it. Jenny states in Stuck in the Middle With You that she realizes that her transition was very unusual, as everything broke her way. It was one of the first books I read on the topic BY a transwoman. And still one of the best. I have had the pleasure of discussing this book with JFB, and reviewing it in this blog. I've sold MANY copies of this book at the bookstore by recommending it.
Wrapped in Blue by Donna Rose
Another early TG read. Donna's story is so inspirational. She endured horrific pain, and came through it stronger. I met Donna some years ago (she is my "big sister" Mel's "big sister") and many times since. I am proud to call her friend. Her conversational, candid writing style is a great influence on my blog. She is still one of my heroines.
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Not a TG book by any stretch of the imagination. But it was the first "non-traditional" book I read. It opened my mind to the possibilities of the written word- of the sentence as music. And, most importantly, that life is about the Journey. We are all on this journey, with its unexpected twists and turns. And the journey will continue long after I am gone for so many. But I will try to make that road easier for others. Another point I took from this book is that it's OK to be different. And I was different...
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Another non-TG book, and another non-traditional book. This book is the single biggest influence on my writing style, and in many ways, my way of looking at things. Sometimes one must see the absurd and call it for what it is. Take risks. Write honestly- even if you have to use metaphor to cushion the blow of the Truth, but always write that Truth. No matter what the consequences to oneself. It took me many years to accept my Truth after hiding it for so long. I'd forgotten that one key lesson. Always be honest with yourself.
Trans sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
A TG book by a major cisgender author. I was planning my transition when I was recommended this book. It's a bit dated, but the truth it contains is still valid: not everyone accepts us... but we must accept ourselves.
I am Not Myself these Days by Josh Kilmer Purcell
A memoir about an advertising executive by day and drag queen by night. I read this before that fateful Halloween 2008 when I rediscovered myself, but the cracks were beginning to show. I was ashamed to be seen reading the book, because I felt someone would guess my secret. In this book, I discovered an underground world so vastly different than my own, populated by strange and wonderful people who were living far more genuinely than I was. At the end of the book, there are crossdressing tips that I followed when getting ready for Halloween 2008. I have met JKP several times, and we periodically message each other on Facialbook. He offers constructive criticism of my writing. He was another example of living one's life openly and truthfully. I've sold MANY copies of this book at the bookstore by recommending it.
You may have noticed a common thread in these books. That's the point I think. In the end, despite all the pain, I am living honestly. Books can teach us a great many things, as long as our mind is open to hearing what they say, and learning.