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Daily Helping for June 20th, 2021 – Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

A close of photo of the cover of Felix After Ever by Kacen Callender. The image is a drawing of the titular Felix, wearing a grey tank top and a crown of flowers.

Amidst all the rainbow flag waving of Pride month, it can be easy to forget that there are countless people out there who are still trying to figure themselves out. Navigating your identity journey can be difficult, complex, and messy, and Felix Ever After is a book that beautifully captures all of these elements and more. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I read a story that so perfectly describes just how confusing, fraught, and ultimately rewarding this journey can be.

The titular Felix is a queer, Black, transgender teenager living in New York who just wants to find love. As an ironic twist, his last name is Love, but he feels like he is one marginalization too many to ever be deemed worthy of love. To make things even more confusing, he’s still not entirely sure of his identity and his place in the world. When Felix becomes the target of a transphobic act at school, his quest for revenge sets off a chain of events that lead to many self discoveries. And love, I’m happy to say. Just in a rather roundabout way. Although, it did culminate in a scene at a Pride parade that made my heart swell with joy, so the many twists and turns to get there were definitely worth it.

In case you haven’t already guessed, I loved this book from beginning to end. Mostly because it gave me a window into a lived experience that is far removed from my own. I am neither transgender nor a person of colour, and I am (thankfully) no longer a teenager. I say thankfully, because a lot of the narrative of this book hinges of the use of social media and the pressures teenagers face as a result of it. Which is why I will forever be thankful that I managed to finish my teen years before social media came around. Felix Ever After only deepened that gratitude.

That being said, I really hope that this book is an accurate depiction of the way teenagers today view and think about the world. The characters are all so much more thoughtful and critical about social issues than I remember my peers and I ever being when we were that age. Perhaps that’s what happens when you grow up carrying the whole of human knowledge in your pocket. Whatever the reason, it gave me hope for the generation coming up behind me.

However, what I loved most about this book is the way it immerses you in Felix’s story. I’ve always believed that storytelling is one of the best ways of fostering empathy, and to this end, I think Felix Ever After should be required reading. The things Felix endures simply for being his authentic self are unacceptable, and yet they happen every day in real life. Hopefully more people will read stories like this and begin to understand the pain of trying to figure yourself out while simultaneously convincing the world you deserve to exist. Figuring yourself out is hard enough. The least we can do is allow people to do so in peace and without fear.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!