Cover Image: My Sister

My Sister

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Member Reviews

Selenis and Marizol Leyva have written an emotionally moving and powerfully impactful memoir, told from both perspectives. This is a must read #ownvoices memoir if you want to try to understand the issues that happen when one sibling comes out as transgender. These two sisters are open and raw. They share how each of their perspectives often differ. They are open about how their memories are colored by those perspectives and how that changes the way they remember things. And best of all, they tell the reader how their love for one another was more important than any differences and so they chose to embrace it. One of my children is a transgender man and I recognized myself and him in the journeys these two women have undertaken.

My Sister: How One Sibling's Transition Changed Us Both is divided into three parts: before, during and after transition. And each woman (one trans sister and one cis-gender sister) shares that part of the story. It is well done. Selenis is truthful but respectful. When using her sister's previous named (known as dead name) she does it only with her sister's permission and only for those portions of the story that occur in the section 0f the book that occurs before transition.

The book doesn't shy away from sharing all of the horrible truths about how Marizol felt and was treated. It is a voyeuristic view of the stigma placed upon her, and the pain she felt as a result. Both women share their own grief, pain and experiences, and both share how things have improved as Marizol has been celebrated as her authentic self. The book is intimate and compassionate. I would gift this to anyone who is newly transitioning, or to the families of someone who is doing so.

But I would recommend it to everyone. It is important for people to learn and grow.

Thank you to Netgalley, Perseus Books and the authors for my digital copy of the book in exchange for my review.
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Thank. you for the advanced e-ARC win exchange for my honest review. I will post my review on Goodreads and Amazon.
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This is one of those books that you did not know you needed to read, but it is so important to be aware of what a person who is transitioning (and closed ones) are going through.

Told in alternate perspectives, Marizol and Selenis share what it was like for them to go through this process and how it affected their lives and family dynamics.

I especially loved how Marizol's family ultimately stood by her, accepted who she is, and gave her the love and support that she needed. Here's hoping that one day all transgender individuals receive the same.
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5/5 WOW. Before i write my review i just want to say how they both look so gorgeous on this cover! This was the first memoir ive ever read because it caught my eye being in the LGBT+ community i wanted to read it especially because i have alot of trans friends. This story was so beautiful im so happy i got sent this ARC from netgalley it touched down on marizols transition and selenis life growing up and these girls have been through alot. I really wanted to also read this because Gloria on orange is the new black is one of my favorite cast members so i had to read this as well for her. This memoir was so vulnerable and i hope alot of trans woman and men read this book even queer people just so they know we arent alone in this at all. And we all go through stuff. Thank you both for sharing this story it was beautiful. @selenisleyvaofficial @iam_marizol ❤️ So proud of you both.
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I feel like anything I will write will not do this book justice. This is an absolutely amazing #ownvoices memoir. I really appreciated the dual perspective, and both sisters admitted that some of their memories/perceptions might differ, and they decided to embrace those differences. Which makes this book all the more authentic. 

The book is separated in three parts : before Marizol, during the transition, and after. At first I was a bit reluctant to read Selenis' part, as I've often read absolutely inaccurate works on this matter, always by cis people. But it was very well done. 

They are telling this story, with all of its horrible truths, so that no one feels alone and so that the world can understand the importance of support. And to STOP stigmatizing trans people. Selenis writes that they feel cheated, because their initial lack of knowledge resulted in so much pain for Marizol. Had they known all of this before, she could've grown into her true-self before. So this is why they wrote this book. 


"I want to be clear that it is never okay to call out or refer to a trans individual by their birth name [...] to do so is an act of violence, one that demeans and insults and harms." 

"Though she was assigned male at birth [...] Marizol has always been a woman."

So thank you. For writing this book. It takes a lot of courage to open up in such an intimate way. 

P. S. This subject is SO close to my heart, especially as my sibling identifies as trans. 💛🌈
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This memoir is written with two voices- the voice of the cisgender sister and the voice of the transgender sister. They recall their lives together as sister and brother, and then the brother's transition. An informative and emotional addition to gender literature.
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Told in dual perspectives, two sisters share their stories of one sister’s personal journey to figuring out her identity and fully living her truth as a trans woman. In this raw and unflinchingly honest memoir, Marizol Leyva bears her soul as she takes readers through her life, from an unstable childhood and placed in the foster care system, to being in and out of homelessness and a victim of physical and sexual abuse. Through all of this, Selenis struggles to help her sister as much as she can, knowing all the while that there’s something deeper her sister is fighting, yet living in a time where neither had the vocabulary to understand. They only had each other.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir. I will admit, at first I had my reservations, since this is partly focusing on a cisgendered person’s perspective on having a trans sibling, which can be a problematic narrative in sharing stories about trans people. There have been books like these in the past that have garnered a lot of negative criticism—and for good reason, as these types of stories tend to focus more on the cisgendered person and how their sibling being trans affects them, rather than on the trans person and their experiences. Thankfully, in this case, it’s handled really, really well. Selenis opens the book by describing how she and her sister had an open conversation on how best to narrate this book. While both came to the decision to use Marizol’s birth name (“deadname”) in the first part of the book as a way to tell her story as it happened, leading up to her transition, Selenis also expresses emphatically how harmful and hurtful it is to refer to a trans person by their deadname. You can feel this deep level of respect and communication between Marizol and Selenis throughout the book, and together they set the ideal example of bridging the conversation between cisgendered and trans folks—specifically how cisgendered allies can support trans people by lifting them up without trying to talk over them, by listening attentively, and by stepping back so their voices can be heard. 

Marizol not only narrates a deeply personal account of her transition and living openly as a trans woman, but she uses each of her experiences as a way to open the conversation up, to highlight the many, many experiences and adversities that trans people face, from being bullied in school and having a lack of resources and support, to being at higher risks of homelessness, mental illness and suicide/self harm, to being more likely to be the victims of hate crimes and physical/sexual abuse in relationships. Marizol herself has known each of these struggles and more, and as she addresses them she includes statistics and other reference material, which altogether make this an extremely informative and educational piece on trans issues as well as being a memoir.

My Sister very much is an open letter between two sisters who grew up together but over time, and out of a series of difficult situations, grew apart, fading in and out of each other’s lives. This story that they share is about remembering, about reconnecting, about finally understanding all those words left unsaid, about building the bridge back up again and being able to say to someone, "I see you. I see you for you. I love and accept you and believe that you should be celebrated for who you are and the strength you possess.” It’s also about educating, about opening up a dialogue about queer youth, and specifically about trans women It's about speaking your truth, abut being able to carve out a space for yourself in the world and fighting for your right to exist as your true self. Marizol's story represents the experiences of what it's like to live life not only as a trans woman but as a trans woman of color, a perspective that very much deserves its own space in the LGBTQ+ community. This was an incredible #ownvoices memoir that I think everyone should read.
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This book wasn't really written for me, so I don't feel that my review of it matters much. I would be interested to hear how other transgender individuals feel about the choices Marizol and Selenis made in regards to deadnaming/gender pronouns, because while I understand the reasoning behind their choices, I also feel it could be confusing for people who are not familiar with transgender rights and experiences.
I think this book will probably be most impactful for people from communities where gender roles are strict and transgender individuals are highly discriminated against.
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When it is snowy and cold outside, superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOL

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

A powerful, honest memoir by two sisters -- one a star on Orange Is the New Black, one a trans woman and activist -- about transitioning, family, allyship, and the path to self-realization.

When Selenis Leyva's parents adopted a baby into their warm, loving family, Selenis was immediately smitten. The pair were always close; Selenis showered her younger sibling with affection, who in turn looked up to Selenis and followed her everywhere. The siblings realized, almost at the same moment, that the younger of the two was struggling with their identity. As Marizol transitioned and fought to define her identity, Selenis and her family struggled to support her. In My Sister, they narrate their shared journey, challenges, and triumphs.

In alternating chapters, Selenis and Marizol write honestly about the issues of violence, abuse, and discrimination that trans people and women of colour--and especially trans women of colour--experience daily. And they are open about the messiness and confusion of fully realizing oneself and being properly affirmed by others.

Profoundly moving and instructive, My Sister offers insight into the lives of two siblings learning to be their authentic selves. Ultimately, theirs is a story of hope, one that will resonate with and affirm those in the process of transitioning, watching a loved one transition, and anyone taking control of their gender or sexual identities.

When Is aw the cover I thought to myself, that glamourous woman on the left looks like someone from Orange is the New Black but the very, very, very glam version. It was!!!  That aside, this is a searing story of acceptance and sisterhood when one knows they are in the wrong body and does something about it. That can get you killed these days (as can being a woman of colour) and Selenis' acceptance and support made my eyes well up with happy tears, 

This is what I call AN IMPORTANT BOOK - every school, library and social services organization should have copies of this book on their shelves. This book can save lives and foster acceptance by families, friends and the community as a whole. Buy this book. Read this book. Discuss this book. 

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials" on Instagram and Twitter..get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈
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