by Ariel Schrag
Ariel Schrag grew up in Berkeley,
California. She is the author of
the graphic memoirs Awkward,
Definition, Potential, and Likewise
and has written for the television
shows How to Make It in America
and The L Word. Adam is her
debut novel.
When Adam Freedman — a skinny,
awkward, inexperienced teenager
from Piedmont, California — goes
to stay with his older sister Casey
in New York City, he is hopeful that
his life is about to change. And it
sure does.
It is the summer of 2006. Gay marriage and transgender rights are in the air, and
Casey has thrust herself into a wild lesbian subculture. Soon Adam is tagging along
to underground clubs, where there are hot older women everywhere he turns. It takes
some time for him to realize that many in this new crowd assume he is trans—a boy
who was born a girl. Why else would this baby-faced guy always
be around?
Then Adam meets Gillian, the girl of his dreams — but she couldn’t
possibly be interested in him. Unless passing as a trans guy might
actually work in his favor . . .
Ariel Schrag’s scathingly funny and poignant debut novel puts a
fresh spin on questions of love, attraction, self-definition, and what
it takes to be at home in your own skin.
Mariner Books | Trade Paper
978-0-544-14293-0 | 320 pages | $13.95
www.hmhco.com www.arielschrag.com
1. “Since Adam wasn’t gay, this sort of life-changing field trip wasn’t exactly an
option for him” (p 23). Adam is jealous of the social perks his sister Casey has by
being gay and therefore instantly part of “a scene.” Do you belong to any par-
ticular group or subculture? Does it make you feel special? Is exclusion of others
a necessary component to the narcotic feeling of inclusion?
2. When Adam goes to New York, he fantasizes that he is going to meet a red-
headed girl and fall in love. Why does Adam fixate on this imagined “redhead”
rather than being open to meeting any kind of girl?
3. “Casey giggled more, trying to catch her breath… ‘All I have to do is stay
black and die. At camp today, this kid Christine didn’t want to go to Drama
Group, and I kept saying, ‘Christine, you have to go to Drama Group,’ and she
was like, ‘No, I don’t. All I have to do is stay black and die.’” (p 100) Why does
Casey drunkenly relay this anecdote? How does it relate to the experience
Adam just had in the bathroom with Calypso? Is race more of an immutable
identity than gender?
4. “’It’s just, it’s kind of a trans thing, though,’ [Casey] said. ‘He’s new to his
body, his sexuality. As an emerging trans person, he needs to be free to explore
sexual experiences now that he’s not constricted by his assigned gender.’ . . .
‘I guess,’ said Adam. He’d learned that anything that had anything to do with
‘being trans’ was not a thing you questioned.” (p 101–2) Why is Adam uncom-
fortable criticizing Casey’s excuse for Boy Casey’s behavior? What kind of social
power comes with being part of an oppressed minority?
5. At the gay marriage march Casey tells Adam it hurts her feelings that he
would get married while it’s illegal for her to get married to a woman. Is it
wrong for the privileged to exercise their rights while those rights are denied
to the marginalized? Does it make a difference if you are actively trying to
change those laws? What if you disagree with the laws, but do nothing about
them? How do you decide where to draw the line on what rights
to exercise?
6. Why might Jimmy—whose ID reveals his former identity to
be that of a twenty-six-year-old woman—act like a misogynistic
teenage boy? Does his former identity make his behavior and
attitudes any more or less acceptable?
www.hmhco.com www.arielschrag.com
7. Hazel is a butch (masculine presenting) lesbian trans woman. Why is this
identity confusing to Adam? How does Hazel’s identity challenge the assump-
tions many people have about what makes someone “male” or “female”?
8. Adam deceives Gillian into thinking he is a trans man. Is this different from
a trans person allowing someone to believe he or she is cisgendered? How,
when Adam has sex with Gillian using his penis, which she believes is a dildo, is
it different from a trans man having sex with someone using a dildo, which the
person believes to be a penis?
9. Why is Adam so upset when he learns that Ethan is trans? Does Adam have a
right to feel betrayed? How might Adam hav eacted differently toward Ethan if
he knew from the beginning that Ethan was trans?
10. Many aspects of our society are divided according to gender. Why are we
so obsessed with this division? As gay rights, transgender rights, non-traditional
families, and artificial reproduction for all people become more prominent,
how will gender demarcations change?
www.hmhco.com www.arielschrag.com

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