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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“Trans-Sister Radio” Explores Transphobia

As college students, we are all well-versed in the plight of society. We have read about classism in Charles Dickens’ works. We have examined racism in Richard Wright’s novels. After a few years in the liberal arts classroom, the thirsty scholar cries out, “More! Give me new forms of xenophobia! Show me the latest ways that people are hating one another!”

Author Chris Bohjalian comes through for us in the novel “Trans-Sister Radio.” In it, he delves deep into an area that is unexplored territory for most people in modern-day society. He details a new form of prejudice — transphobia, the fear of transgendered people.

The plotline of “Trans-Sister Radio” might be deemed a twisted love story. In chapters narrated by the story’s main characters, readers follow the changing relationships and events in the life of the likeable character Dana, who is transgendered.

In the beginning of the book, Dana is a respected professor — a male professor — who, for all of his 36 years, has felt that his masculine exterior is evidence of nature’s ability to make mistakes. Dana meets and finds true love with Allison, a local school teacher. Three love-blissed months later, Dana informs Allison that he is about to undergo the sex-change surgery that he has been dreaming of and saving for his entire life.

When Allison is narrating the story, our minds are filled with strange struggles and questions about the sturdiness of love in the face of changing sexual and gender identities, while Dana’s voice gives us a perspective on the existence of those considered to be on the sexual fringes of society with which we can empathize. Will, Allison’s ex-husband who is still carrying a torch for Allison, provides the outsiders’ view, that of the local community going to extreme measures to communicate their intolerance for Dana’s choices, and for Allison’s decision to support Dana through her surgery.

The book deals with a very current, controversial topic in the first person, so it is easy to get sucked in and keep watching — er, reading. It features multiple references to sex. And if we see it through to the end, we will learn a valuable moral lesson about how to be a better person. So when your classes are turning your brain into cement, but you don’t want to violate your “Kill Your Television” bumper sticker’s mantra, tune in instead to Chris Bohjalian’s latest novel for relief.