‘Can’t Take That Away’ – Steven Salvatore

This was a book that I picked up out of curiosity and feeling the need to raise my own awareness. As a teacher I am, more than anything, struck by the difference this shows educators can make to the experience of those in their care and am horrified that such bigoted views as those expressed by Mr Jackson and Max could be tolerated and supported. It certainly made me think about how each of us can play our part in creating a community where everyone within it feels safe enough to be themselves.

The main character of Carey Parker is one that engaged and infuriated me in equal measure. I felt so angry on their behalf that they would have to endure some of the things they experienced, pride that they found the strength to be themselves and allow others to support them and utterly exasperated by their inability to be honest at times with those who meant so much to them.

The story is quite straightforward. Carey is genderqueer, and in a bid to regain some of the power they feel they have surrendered they audition for a part in their school musical. This sets up a quite remarkable chain of events culminating in a nationally-noticed protest about the discrimination evident in their school and a ‘treat’ of meeting their heroine Mariah Carey. Along the way we focus on their shifting friendships and some major life events involving their grandmother.

I’d love to say this book isn’t necessary, but that isn’t the case. It was informative, engaging in showing a young person coming of age and developing in confidence and certainly one to get people talking.