TW: TRANSPHOBIA, SUICIDE – This post contains a detailed review of the book “Remake” which contains several transphobic messages, as supported by “The Family: A Proclamation to The World.” It also contains a brief mention of suicide.
What do you get when Shadow Mountain, a publishing company owned by Deseret Book, releases a young adult novel based on a world where children are raised androgynously? You get a disastrous perpetuation of cisgender and heterosexual ideals.
Remake (written by Ilima Todd) is the story of Nine, a female born into the province of Freedom, where individuals are free to choose everything about themselves from their careers and hair color to their gender. On the surface level this premise is actually quite interesting: the idea of a society where children aren’t gendered and are free to completely be themselves made my little feminist heart swell with joy.
It turns out that this young adult dystopian novel isn’t really an interesting exploration of gender. It is actually a 288 page hate letter to trans folks, supported by bible verses and The Family: A Proclamation to the World.
In Remake “raised androgynously” actually just means that all of the kids wear grey sweat pants and get frequent buzz cuts. They are all given mysterious shots that prevent them from ever entering puberty, live in dormitories together, and for some reason use gendered pronouns which seems to indicate that the children aren’t actually being raised without any influence of gender norms. As teens, they live “without rules” (except they have to go to school where they get in trouble for not following rules) and this translates to violent fights that break out in the dormitories. Insert Theron, Nine’s best friend who suffers from outbursts which are responsible for the busting of more than one face.
One outstanding example of bullying is that Nine is frequently tormented for having red hair and freckles. We learn early on that these freckles and red hair were actually the result of an experiment. This serves as one of the prime examples of how not free the Freedom provenance actually is. I found this point laughable when compared to the modern-day dystopia we currently live in, where life is a living hell for transgender individuals as they are mocked, beaten, rejected and even murdered simply for daring to be alive. Remake seeks to explore what could possibly happen if individuals are allowed to freely express their gender identities, and the reader is supposed to go along with the idea that it would lead to horrible, horrible things. Even as the novel attempted to explore this I never understood exactly what it was that was so bad about this world.
Every dystopian novel comes with some kind of horrible, oppressive government that engages in evils like starving their population, murdering children, or the like. In Remake the worst crime the government has committed is completely abolishing families (because that’s a natural consequence of abandoning gender roles?) yet the population is well fed, has health care, and really seems to be happy and well adjusted. At no point in Remake did I feel or believe that some kind of truly horrible act was being committed.
While reading Remake I quickly realized that I have a very different view of humanity than the author does. I live with the belief than human beings want to self actualize, and that humanity is filled with good. In Todd’s fictional universe, the characters lack human empathy and engage in a lot of “bad” behavior that is reminiscent of everything the LDS church teaches youth to fear (sex! alcohol! tattoos!).
[This paragraph contains spoilers, so if for some reason you think you may want to read this book, skip to the next paragraph] On the plane journey to the remake facility, Nine and all of her comrades are involved in a crash. It is here that the book really becomes a mess. Nine luckily survives, washes ashore on a nearby island, and is taken in by a nice family. Shortly after her arrival Nine discovers the family bible and it is here that Remake devotes multiple pages to reprinting the creation story, word for word from the bible. Nine goes through a transformative Christian conversion, learns to be ashamed of her own body, learns what families are, and falls in love with the rudest asshole she has ever met, Kai. Through the course of this she realizes how evil her government was, and how essential gender is. Nine was initially planning on becoming a man during her “remake surgery” but thanks to her new found religion she realizes she was just confused all along.
Deseret Book is selling copies of Remake with an insert that reads in prominent, bright-blue lettering “GENDER IS ETERNAL” with the subtitle of “Remake is a page turning dystopian novel with several gospel truths found within its pages.” After reading that insert it is painfully clear that the premise of this novel is to perpetuate gender norms through a young adult dystopian novel. Had this book been sold without such an insert one could (foolishly) claim that it was purely a work of fiction and that any resemblance to current issues is entirely coincidental. This is not the case. Ilima Todd has written a trans-antagonistic novel that is being sold as containing “gospel truths.”
Why? Why do we need this? Is there really any reason to add more hatred to the world?
When I read this novel after it’s release I was disgusted that such a work was gaining great reviews, and I was appalled that it was being associated with my religion. Now, in the days following Leelah Alcorn’s death, I am heartbroken and angry. There is endless proof all around us that perpetuating the same ideals contained within Remake is harmful. There is zero evidence to indicate that anything negative will happen as the result of merely supporting people in any and all expressions of gender. Yet, members of the LDS church have felt it necessary to publish a work of fiction that adds to the hostile environment.
Deseret Book defends the “gospel truths” in this book with four bullet points that are included in the insert. They are:
- Gender is eternal. The world tells us that gender doesn’t matter within the family unit and society. Remake teaches just the opposite. The author was inspired by “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to create a novel that supports these truths.
Well, you got me there Deseret Book because I’m here to tell you that there is nothing to suggest that gender roles are necessary. Also, this book does a really bad job of teaching that “gender is essential.” Did we really need a novel based on The Proc? No, but now we have it and it’s harmful and bad.
- The traditional family unit is critical to the well-being and success of any society.
Uh, which traditional family unit are we talking about here? The definition of “family” has changed multiple times throughout history– and even within Mormonism. I understand that “traditional family unit” is actually used to refer to the conventional family unit that is popular today. Still, there is no evidence to suggest that this version of a family is critical to society. We learn from anthropology that there have been many successful societies that differ in their gender roles, what their families look like, and how they view sexuality. The western 20th century view of a family is not global, and it certain is not critical.
- A female is just as capable and strong as any male.
This point in particular is absurd. Not because I disagree with it, but because having a strong female protagonist is no excuse for being trans exclusionary. I want no part of anything that tries to empower women at the expense of any other marginalized group. Additionally, Nine isn’t actually a strong female protagonist. She spends most of the book agonizing over which boy to love, she struggles to make decisions on her own, and she allows her opinions to be changed by whichever boy is closest.
- True Agency gives us the right and obligation to fight against tyranny.
I agree. Like we all have an obligation to fight for equality for all members of our society. Not just those who fit the mold presented in The Proc.
It is disheartening that a book based on religious morals isn’t one filled with acceptance and love, but rather bigotry and fear. It is upsetting that so many people have read and loved this novel without stopping to ask themselves “What societal pressures could this place on someone? Does this foster an environment of support for transgender people?”