Up Late with Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

“How would it feel to hide an enormous, important, life-threatening secret from your friends, your neighbors, and maybe even members of your family?” Mr. Finn, Grayson’s humanities teachers asks his students this in regard to the Holocaust, but for Grayson, this question holds even more importance, since he has an enormous secret, too.  He is a girl trapped in a boy’s body.

Grayson Sender doodles what look like geometric shapes in the margins of his books, but in his mind, the triangle is a dress under the circle of the head.  He imagines his baggy clothes spinning into princess dresses.  When he shops at thrift stores with friends, he gazes longingly at the skirts, and once he even tries a skirt on to see how it looks. Living with his aunt and uncle and cousins is hard enough, but living with this secret is much harder.

Grayson finds a group of supportive friends, though, when he tries out for the school play– as Persephone.  When his aunt finds out he has the part, she lashes out at Mr. Finn, but his uncle is more supportive.  This book follows the difficultly Grayson faces as classmates call him Gracie and try to physically harass him.  He finds a support system with the other actors in the play, and finally learns to accept how he feels and slowly begins to share who he is with others after discovering his parents knew and accepted him for who he was.

This novel is a middle grade novel–a type of book I don’t usually read, but I got a copy at the NCTE conference.  I have a student who identifies as agender and this book was interesting to read with that in mind. In fact, as I wrote this, I struggled with pronouns–am I using the right ones? What would be the best way to describe this book?  I think this is a good jumping off point for students, teachers, friends, and family to consider what it must be like to go through life feeling as if you have to hide who you are out of fear that people you love might not accept you.

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA

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Up Late with Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

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