Hello! My name is Kaitlin Isabelle and I am a graduate student at Nazareth College. I am currently studying Literacy education to become a literacy specialist and have been spending some extra time lately in search of some good books. Speaking of good books, What We Left Behind by Robin Talley is a must read!
Whether you are a TBF reader already in high school, or are just starting, college probably feels far away. However, everyone know how exciting graduation is! For many, college is the first of many big changes. Take a moment to imagine what getting ready for college will feel like. What are you excited about when you started? What will you be afraid of? Who will you hope to meet? Will you have to leave anyone behind? What do you dream college will be like?
Many of those thoughts you are having are the same that main characters Toni and Gretchen’s had when finishing high school and starting college. This emotional story starts off with the introduction of a romance between these two girls. They met, they fall in love and they were inseparable since that first day. They love each other so much that whenever either of them takes a moment to think about herself, it is not simply Gretchen thinking about Gretchen or Toni thinking about Toni. Instead, it’s always- “Gretchen and Toni”. A captivating line that shows the depth of their love is when we hear Toni as she thinks to herself “I never imagined that being one half of a whole could make you feel more whole yourself”.
But when their plan to go to college in the same town changes, they decide that even though the distance will make it tough, their love is tougher. This whole starting college thing sounds so easy for them right? However, this easy task quickly becomes difficult for Gretchen and Toni as they start on independent journeys towards self-identification. Starting college leaves these girls questioning who they really are. For example, Gretchen moves to New York to go to NYU. While she is there she starts to confuse who she really is to who she was when she was with Toni. But Toni’s journey is quite different than Gretchen’s. In this new world of Harvard in Boston, Toni joins the LGBTQ community on Harvard’s campus. With a new group of friends she starts to question her gender. She knows she does not identify as a female, so she is left struggling with whether she identifies as a male or neither gender. We really start to understand this internal struggle as we hear Toni’s thoughts while she is with her sister, Audrey.
“I want to be the sister Audrey wants me to be. No, not the sister. The sibling. I need to stop defining myself according to other people’s expectations. I need to figure out who I am. Not just whether I’m a guy, either. What do I actually want for myself? Outside what my friends see, or my girlfriend sees, or my family sees? Maybe things will never be the way they were before between me and Audrey. Because I’m not the same.”
As you look down the road to your life in a few years, do you think you will know who you truly are. Determining our identity is part of life when hitting high school and then going into college. Whether trying to find friends that you click with or even what gender to identify as, this journey of identity is one all must take. How will these two unique journeys for two unique girls affect their relationship? Will Gretchen start to understand who she is as just Gretchen? What will Toni decide when it comes to her gender identity? You’ll have to read this great book to find out!
To find this book in your area, check out one of the Monroe County Libraries.