It’s been a little while since the last Indie Author Monday was posted, but you can check that one out here. This week, I’m looking at “The Lives of Merfolk” by Chelsea Mason-Basiliere.
I’ve known Chelsea for a while, and even read early drafts of her first novel, “Circle of Fifths,” back before she published it. I reached out to Chelsea to see if I could feature her on Indie Author Monday, and she got back to me right away and even sent me a hardcopy of “The Lives of Merfolk” for free.
The book is about Hayden Moakley, a teenager with gender dysphoria.
As a disclaimer, I think it prudent to mention that I’m not trans. I don’t know those experiences, and as such I really can’t speak to them. So, not being trans, I might be able to say that I think Chelsea had good intentions with this book, but I can’t actually validate how accurate her depiction of life as a trans dude in the Berkshires is. Additionally, as is I think the case whenever allies write about any group they’re not a specific part of, it could be a case of the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It is problematic for the main character to wear an ace bandage all the time–and though I think that it’s pointed out as being flawed when Hayden does have a health issue because of wearing the bandage and when an older trans man who has had top surgery gives him his old binder, I really am not the person to determine whether or not that’s true. The practice of wearing an ace bandage as any kind of chest binding is unsafe, and it’s bad that it’s depicted so frequently as being part of a trans experience–nobody should be wearing them, period. Does it still happen? Probably.
So there are other things like that that happen within the book.
That disclaimer aside, I do think it’s important to have trans characters (although the lines get fuzzy when people who aren’t trans write about people who are) in media. Additionally, it’s important to have those characters still retain flaws because they’re not exempt from having bad personality traits–they’re still human, and giving a fictional character reminds us of that fact. Here, Chelsea does a pretty good job; her characters aren’t one dimensional, which, unless you’re reading an allegorical story, is pretty big in terms of being able to write.
As a reader, I found “Lives of Merfolk” enjoyable. The prose is clean and clear of overwhelming description, and I did like getting to know the characters. I’m bummed it ends so soon, but at the same time, I think Chelsea picked a pretty good stopping place for it, as these things go. The bathroom debate comes up, and it’s something that should be talked about since it’s still a current issue. I don’t read an overwhelming amount of young adult literature anymore, so I can’t compare it to anything else currently out, but overall, I did enjoy the book. Like her first novel, there was something that I found engaging about the tone of the narration, and that’s something I find necessary as a reader.
She hasn’t finished reviving her blog yet, but you can keep up with Chelsea on Twitter here.