One ordinary day, a caseworker from the Department of Children and Families knocked on the Hays family's door to investigate an anonymous complaint about the upbringing of their transgender child. It was this knock, this threat, that began the family's journey out of the Bible Belt but never far from the hate and fear resting at the nation’s core.
Self-aware and intimate, A Girlhood asks us all to love better, not just for the sake of Hays’s child but for children everywhere enduring injustice and prejudice just as they begin to understand themselves. A Girlhood is a call to action, an ode to community, a plea for empathy, a hope for a better future. A Girlhood is a love letter to a child who has always known exactly who she is—and who is waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.
"A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter exists in a recent tradition of epistolary memoirs by leery parents (or prospective ones) careening between hope and anxiety on the page: from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me to Warmth, by Daniel Sherrell. Powerfully intimate ... Hays trains her powers of observation on the sheer wonder of a child in bloom ... spare prose quaking with love and consternation."—New York Times
"Touching, combative, compelling...this memoir begins with the suspense of a thriller and ends with...hope."—Vogue [Italian edition]
"Hays here presents a different view of God—as a being of pure love that would never consider her daughter a mistake, but instead, a gift."—Oprah Daily
"Poignant . . . [a] clear-eyed, love-filled tale."—Booklist
“Carolyn Hays’s memoir is searing, haunting, and inspiring. It’s a story that asks us to consider what we would do if the simple act of loving our own child threatened to cost us everything. In prose memorable for its gentleness and wisdom, Hays’s story is about more than the transgender question: it’s about ignorance and wisdom; hatred and love; men, women, and children. In the end, A Girlhood is about all of us.”—Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There and Good Boy
"An incredibly poignant and timely story for trans families everywhere. I wish my parents had access to these words, stories, and beautiful thoughts while raising me."—Tommy Dorfman, actress, writer, director
“It’s impossible to read this book and not root for the fierce, human, beautiful family at its center and the daughter that they—‘like tanks’—protect against those who try to steal her joy. A Girlhood is, at its heart, a love story, a grand American love story. It educates without scolding, inspires without sentimentalizing. Who should read this gorgeously written book? Not merely anyone parenting a transgender child, or anyone parenting any child, but anyone who’s ever been a child. This—this—is the book we need now.”—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother
"A Girlhood is a transfixing odyssey of a mother stewarding a preternaturally wise child, and an American family circling to protect that child.... I saw facets of my own trans identity I’d never pondered, questions about the construction of self I’d never even thought to pose. At one point Hays says, 'I want you to build a full rich library of your girlhood—not the story of someone you had to pretend to be.' The radical positivity of that sentiment put me in tears... A Girlhood is...an act of epic compassion."—Diana Goetsch, author of This Body I Wore