Stage Dreams

Graphic Universe. Sept. 2019. 104p. notes. Tr $29.32. ISBN 9781512440003; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781541572843.
Gr 5-8–Grace, a young transgender woman, is attempting to outrun the Civil War. Though she identifies as female, she was assigned male at birth. The Confederate army in her native Georgia sees her as a worthy soldier, but she’s got other plans. Grace has made it as far as the New Mexico territory, aiming for acceptance and freedom in San Francisco. She is kidnapped by the legendary bandit Ghost Hawk, who is said to be half woman, half hawk. But Ghost Hawk, or Flor, is simply a woman, and a sympathetic and affirming one at that. Romance blossoms, and they bond over their shared yet different manifestations of gender nonconformity; Flor identifies as a woman, but her masculine dress and brusque nature are at odds with traditional gender roles of the time. With the New Mexico territory on the brink of Confederate takeover, Flor and Grace have a chance to team up and spy on the Confederate forces for the Union, raising the stakes of their westward adventure. Exploring themes of gender nonconformity and transgender identity, Gillman deftly avoids anachronisms through their emotive and subtle characterizations of Grace and Flor. The illustrations are gently shaded in colored pencil, the softness underscoring the sweetness of the characters. Despite the rough, Wild West setting, Gillman finds opportunities for tender moments. A thoughtfully researched appendix provides ample historical context.
VERDICT This charming and poignant queer romance set against a Civil War–era backdrop will resonate with readers

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