Tag Archives: teenagers

‘A Boy with No Backstory’: One Teenager’s Transition

In 2014, Oregonian reporter Casey Parks contacted local hospitals to find transgender patients who were interested in telling their stories. One doctor, Karin Selva, had a 15-year-old patient named Jay who was willing to share his own. Parks met Jay and his mother Nancy the following year, soon after his first testosterone shot, and has spent hundreds of hours with him since — at home with family and friends, on school visits, and during medical appointments. In the first piece of a three-part series, Parks chronicles the realization that would prompt Jay’s medical transition.

One afternoon while his mom worked, Jay called his younger sisters to the living room. They were 8 and 10 — old enough, he hoped, to understand.

“I need to show you a video,” he told them. He streamed one of the YouTube videos on the TV. A trans guy appeared on the screen and explained how he came out to his family.

Jay stood while his sisters watched from the couch.

“This is how I feel,” Jay said when it ended.

“So you’re becoming a boy?” asked his youngest sister, Angie.

Jay paused. He couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud.

“Kind of.”

“Do you want me to tell mom?” Maria asked.

“No,” he said. Jay hadn’t talked to his mother much the past year, but he knew he had to tell her.

The next day, he crept to the other side of their trailer, his heart knocking. He pushed open his mom’s bedroom door, stood in the doorway and watched her play Candy Crush. She was zoned out after a 12-hour workday. Maybe she’d be too tired to talk about it. She already had on her favorite pajamas, gray sweatpants and a tan tank top.

“I think I figured it out,” he said.

He took a deep breath.

“I’m a boy.”

His mom looked up from the phone.

“So you want to be a butch lesbian?”

“No,” he said. He walked toward her.

“A boy.”

Read the story

How to Report on the Life of a 13-Year-Old

There must be few journalistic feats more difficult than getting inside the head of a teenager. But with “13, Right Now,” Washington Post staff writer Jessica Contrera joins the ranks of reporters who have skillfully chronicled the lives of children and teens, including Susan Orlean (read her classic Esquire piece, “The American Man, Age 10”) and more recently, Andrea Elliott, whose “Invisible Child” for the New York Times in 2013 documented the life of an 11-year-old homeless girl named Dasani.

Contrera’s story focuses on Katherine, 13, whose life has been upended by the death of her mother, and whose world seems to increasingly exist inside her phone—through apps like Instagram and Snapchat. (As an #old myself, seeing Katherine’s life revolve around her social networks is shocking only in the way it mirrors the screen addiction of the American grown-up. It practically begs for the return of the “I learned it by watching you” meme.)

I spoke to Contrera about her story, which is one in an ongoing series (“The Screen Age”) that the Post will publish throughout the summer. Read more…

How Young Adult Literature Won Over Librarians

Though young adult literature has arguably existed since at least Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, which was published in the 1930s, teachers and librarians were slow to accept books for teenagers as a genre. “Today, many librarians are acting like frightened ostriches,” Mary Kingsbury complained in 1971. Afraid of parental criticism and the threat of concerned administrators, she claimed, librarians were turning away from a tide of literature about and for young adults. “Librarians may never span the generation gap,” she predicted, “but by sensitive book selection they can demonstrate an awareness of the particular hang-ups being lived through by young people.”

Just seven years later, the phrase “young adult” was becoming increasingly common in libraries. But with the new title came new concerns about realism in books for young readers—books that, according to Maia Pank Mertz, worried adults who feared that “some young-adult novels defy, or indeed attempt to subvert, society.” Mertz, on the other hand, defended the trend of “New Realism” in young adult novels, looking at books like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and challenging librarians to “develop students who can critically examine our culture’s covert as well as overt assumptions.”

Erin Blakemore, writing about the history of young adult fiction for JSTOR Daily.

Read the story