Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Gender & Women's Studies

Reader 1

Aimee Bahng

Reader 2

Jessica Martinez-Tebbel

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Rights Information

2020 Isaac A Prestwich


This paper constitutes an interrogation of children’s picture books that feature trans and gender non-conforming child protagonists. In these books, the audience, presumed to be a child, whose experience of the narrative is mediated through the adult or older figure reading the picture book, is brought to empathize and identify with the book’s characters, whether they be the protagonist themselves, or those auxiliary figures who surround the main character. My goal is to identify consistent themes across the genre, as well as within the field of critical childhood studies, particularly as they pertain to the rhetorical value of the Child, the representational politics of children’s literature, and the epistemological project of picture books. I ultimately ground my analysis in an intersectional framework that considers gender as inextricably linked to race, ability, and class as they co-constitutively mark certain bodies abject. This intersectional analysis, in turn, demands a move away from universalism and abstraction in favor of specificity. Importantly, this project also considers the following provocations: what constitutes the field of literature for young transgender and gender-non-conforming children? What are the dominant themes and narratives prevalent within these books? What is the affective purchase of these books, particularly when it comes to the normalization and affirmation of difference produced through childhood gender deviance? Considering insights from scholars engaged in the critical study of childhood and children’s literature, what work do these narratives do to explore gender variance in childhood and how might these narratives be complicated by critiques of neoliberalism and a push towards utopian ideas of futurity?