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This blog was featured on 05/28/2019
Meredith Russo on Process and Writing 'Issue Books'
Written by
She Writes
May 2019
Written by
She Writes
May 2019

Meredith Russo made her literary debut in 2016 with If I Was Your Girl – the story of a transgender teenage girl named Amanda with romantic interest in a boy named Grant. The book received some criticism for undeveloped writing and characters, but for the few negative comments, the praise poured in tenfold for its positive themes of hope, acceptance, gender dysphoria, and self-awareness.

In an interview with USA Today, she said about the book: “I wanted to write the story I needed myself” as a teenager, says Russo, 29, a trans woman in Chattanooga, Tenn., who remembers growing up with only negative cultural messages about trans people“I wanted to create a power fantasy for trans kids.”

Now, three years later, to the excitement of her fierce fan following, she has just released Birthday, the story of six years’ time in which Eric and Morgan experience fate, first love, and the discovery of identity.

One reviewer calls it an important, transformative read:

“The story was beautiful, so skillfully and intentionally told. My experience is far removed from that of a teen living in a small middle of nowhere town in Tennessee, but Russo transplanted me to that place and time. I devoured every word, every page, and I’m left deeply moved. Relatable and important, this book has the potential to make the world a better place.”

On the Writing Process

Like many writers, Russo does not write linearly. Instead she pours passion into the scenes where she can nurture the major themes of her book. Then she goes back to make the connections and timeline.  

“I don’t write in order, I write all the pieces in the story I find the most interesting, jumping around the timeline as my attention span warrants. The hardest part was definitely stringing my favorite scenes together.”

This excerpt was originally published on Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Read the full interview here.

On Genre

Russo is a part of a small community of transgender women speaking to transgender issues and creating transgender art.

She recently wrote on Twitter:

“I write ‘issue books’ because being a binary trans lesbian has been a pretty huge ‘issue’ in my life. I would also like to publish more high content, speculative fiction books, but oppression and pain would also feature in those. I will not put padding on my pain for your comfort.”

She continues:

“Also the term ‘transmisogyny’ exists for a reason. Being trans is hard, but trans femmes face our own very specific intersection of challenges and oppressions. If you *aren't* somewhere in or near the trans woman bubble I'm just not interested in your Discourse about what I write."

"Like, feel free to review the quality of my prose or the beats of my plot, and if you DO get something out of my work then good for you, I'm genuinely happy, but at the end of the day I write so I can make a living, so I can process my pain, and so I can speak to my sisters.”

In a Washington Post interview, Russo was asked if she feels pressured to write about the transgender experience since she is transgender. To that question, she replied:

“There’s definitely an element of everything you do has to be Minority 101. I address this in an author’s note… that kind of goes through the compromises I had to make to make the book sellable and make it marketable to cisgender [a person whose gender identity matches their biological sex] people so people don’t take this and use it as dogma."

Photo Credit: Anthony Travis

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