“All Gender U” by Sandra McDonald from Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Strokes Books, 2011).

Off and on throughout my life I have sought refuge in places similar to the setting of this book, Lake Orchid, FL, “the largest spiritualist community in the United States”. From Chicago’s Isis Rising to Spirit Mountain Books in Louisville, KY and in similar places in the Berkshires; Carbondale, IL; and Lafayette, IN, I’ve found warm-hearted and well-meaning folk like protagonist Linden “Lin” Gallagher and her mother Marilyn. 

Marilyn is a little out there. She believes her child is the reincarnation of one of her sisters, who died at age sixteen. A terrible loss, certainly, but is Lin really Linda, come back from beyond the grave? Even Lin isn’t sure she believes that.

One person who absolutely does not believe it is Lin’s Aunt Catherine, a Boston Brahmin and member of the Dartmouth alumni association. Lin has her heart set on going to Dartmouth because of a book, printed circa the nineteen fifties, that she hasn’t read so much as absorbed. She wants to be a Boston Brahmin, too, a high society lady. She correctly sees the first real step on that path to be securing a recommendation for admission to the Ivy League school from her Aunt Catherine.

There’s only one small problem with her plan: Linden was born in a male body. 

I loved all the characters in this, from Lin and her mother to her best friend Rachel and Dr. Fish, the moonshine-swilling “town’s best medium”. They’re a hoot. I even like Aunt Catherine, who, in her own way, means well.