Something Old, Something Debut Episode Transcript: ANA ON THE EDGE by AJ Sass
GiannaMarie , Ron and GiannaMarie, Ron, Annaliese
[guitar intro; book pages flipping]
CONTENT WARNINGS: This book contains discussion of social gender dysphoria, being closeted, coming out, misgendering, mild transphobic statements, strained relationships with and between parental figures, an absent father, a depressive episode, and worry about money.
Hello, welcome to Something Old, Something Debut, the podcast where we talk about new and old books we think you should know about. I’m Ron, and I use he and they pronouns.
And I’m GiannaMarie, and I use she/her pronouns, and today, we’re — today is Ron’s birthday!
And today, we’re talking about Ana on the Edge by AJ Sass.
I always forget what I have to say next! Every time!
It’s starting to become our little pattern, that Ron says, But first, in a like, leading tone while making eyes at me.
[laughs] We do our questiony thing! Do you want to go first? Or should I go first?
Um, I’ll go first. Okay, so Ron has a history of skating. And I’ve just kind of been a little bit of a hobby skater. So we’re both familiar with — this is an ice skating book, in case you didn’t know —
— but it we’ll tell you more about in the podcast… about it. Um, so: What is your favorite part about skating?
Oh, god, that’s a loaded question.
There’s too many things! I guess… like… I don’t know, just like the… the feeling. And by that I don’t just mean like, the sensory feelings. I mean, like, a combination of that and, like, how it makes me feel emotionally. And like, mentally, like, I don’t know, it’s just like, I don’t even have to be doing anything. I can just like, step out onto the ice. And as long as it’s not, like, a super hectic public skate or something, I’m just instantly relaxed.
Aw! You should, you should do that. Like, way more, for your mental health, actually.
I have a bad knee now, though. So it’s also kind of sad, because I’m like, I can’t even do crossovers without my knee being like, What are you doing! But also, if I did more, I probably… it would probably be good. But, yeah.
As someone who also had knee injuries, I… it is scary. But also when your knee gets stronger, it’s less scary because it works better. Because muscles happen.
Yeah. Like, last time I went skating I was basically just- once I figured out my knee was really bad, I was just like, Okay, I’m just gonna do a lot of one foot glides and lunges and spirals on my good leg. Which is probably not the strategy, but that’s what I did.
I… literally, it’s the sensory of like, smooth, go fast, smooth, go fast. Like, a propriosensory-seeking person, [laughing] “Smooth, go fast!” is like, the most exciting thing.
I also like… like, the wind generation you get from skating, because it’s more than you’d get from any sport where you’re just like, on your feet with no added, like, devices. But —
When you said more than any sport, I was like, Ron, do you know how much I think about the luge?
[laughs] Well, but what I was gonna say is, but it’s also less than, like, sports where you’re like, flying, being propelled by more than just yourself. Like… yeah. But it’s like that nice sweet spot of like, it feels like there’s a good amount of wind, but not enough to make my eyes water.
I enjoy downhill skiing, but my foot really does not like it because of my broken bone.
I think I would like skiing, but I’ve never tried it.
I was only able to try it because I went for like, like, a whole day for like, $30 or something when I was at school in Western Mass that, like, there were surrounded by places where you could go on the off season, and it was a great day.
Yeah. When I was a kid I went snowboarding —
That terrifies me.
— was really bad at it. But I also just, when I was a kid, I loved to go tubing. Like, snowtubing is the best.
I don’t love tubing because you just don’t get as much like, like, you’re not as close to the snow as you are when you’re, when you’re just sledding. I’m a fan of like, the completely prone sledding position, just flat on your stomach. So if you hit anything, its head first. [laughs]
Well, I like tubing when I was a kid because, like, there’s the added component of like, you might end up spinning as you go down the hill and like, bouncing a bit.
That terrifies me!
[laughing] I love it! The chaos.
I’ve never lived in a place where our hills were safe. I’ve always had to, like, go like don’t hit the side of the house, don’t hit this tree don’t hit the well. Or like, try not to hit the retaining wall or a tree or like and I would always end up sliding into my my little swing set with swing sets gone now and then it didn’t snow all year. It’s like a curse. We removed the sledding obstacles and now we get no snow. In case anyone is wondering, yeah, I’m 22 years old and I think and want to sled all the time. Ron’s nodding going.
So where I went to middle school, it’s on top of like a small mountain. Well, technically not on top because then the mountain keeps rising up behind it. And like one time we did a school field trip where we just climbed the mountain our Hill is on I mean, our school was on the mountain our Hill was on. But so the hill is also like terrorist on the way up. So you would go everyone would go sledding there. Everyone still goes sledding there in the winter. And so it’s fun because you get like, multiple pushes on your way down —
— because there’s like the big terraced lumps in the hill. But then the annoying thing is, you go so far down that like, you have to climb up —
— like, all the stairs, which luckily there are stairs because that makes it easier. But….
That’s so nice! I didn’t know that there… I didn’t know that there were convenient stairs places. [laughs] This reminds me of- this is so unrelated to anything about this book- but, a movie that I hate more than almost any other movie in the world is National Lampoon’s Family Vacation or Christmas Vacation. But there’s like, a minute and a half where the dad, like, puts a kind of like, oil on the bottom of like, one of those old fashioned aluminum disc sleds. But it was — it was like an oil that his company was developing for like, no friction for machine use — [laughing]
Have you seen this?
I think I’ve seen that seen on TV or something.
So, he goes so far, and so fast it like, shows like, a little lightning bolt on the screen. [laughs] And he hits a lot of people and can’t stop and at the end, like when he holds the sled up to the camera, there’s like a scorched hole on the bottom. [laughing] That’s always what I want when I’m sledding or skating. Okay, what’s your question?
Okay, so my question is related to the fact that we’re recording on my birthday.
So my question is: share a birthday story, preferably a funny one, if you have one.
Do you want me to go first?
Okay. So… and I guess more specifically is like, a memory of, if you have anything that ever happened at one of your own birthdays, that was just like, interesting. So one year… I think it might have been like, my ninth birthday, or 10 or 11. Somewhere around there. I decided I wanted to have a birthday party at a restaurant that I really liked and just invite my friends. And like, we’d all hang out and like, have lunch and have ice cream. And my mom was like, Okay, and then a few months pass, it gets to my birthday. And I say Hey, Mom, we want to do this. And she’s like, Oh, I forgot, but yeah, invite your friends! So I invite my friends. I probably invited at least 10 friends and only one said yes. [laughs] Every other friend was like No, I’m busy. I can’t that day I have something else. I’m really sorry. Oh, blah, blah, blah blah.
W — how far in advance are you asking?
Um, like a few weeks.
Oh my god!
Definitely, yeah. So —
Were all going to another party without you?!
I’m getting there. But I still went out with my one friend who could go, and my sister and my mom, and we had a good time. I think one of my mom’s friends came too, and I opened presents, I’m pretty sure that was the year that I got a new, like, I got a camera for the first time. So I was very excited about that. And so then, after that, my friend was coming over to like, hang out at my house. And so um… so backtracking a little bit, something you should know about my family is that when I was growing up, my dad had a vending business, which means like, he stocked vending machines with candy. And so like, on our property at home, we had, like, trucks that he would use for his business. Okay, so anyway, I was driving home from going out to dinner with my friend and my mom and my sister. And like, I was just like, Yeah, that was really fun, but I’m really bummed that like, nobody could make it, like, I can’t believe even like, my other- because the two — the one person that did show up was one of my best friends, but we were like a trio of best friends. But the third best friend wasn’t able to come — was one of the people who said that she couldn’t come — and her reason was like, the most annoying to me, because she said she had to take her dog to the vet.
Oh no! What nine year old does that?
[laughs] And so anyway, I get home and my mom’s like, Okay, there’s actually one more surprise birthday present. I put it in the back of the truck. And I open up the truck, and all my friends were in the truck! Because before I asked about starting the birthday party, my mom had planned me a surprise party! [bursts out laughing] Everyone had gone through everything for planning the surprise party, and then I was like, Hey, let’s do the restaurant thing. And my mom was like, Oh, crap. [gasping with laughter] So then my mom was like, Oh, wait, this is an excellent excuse —
[shrieks with laughter]
— and had everyone get the party ready while we were out at dinner.
And just throw one kid to be the sacrificial — !
Yes! [laughing hysterically]
It’s so much more than anything that has ever happened to me. I think for my ninet- Oh, do you know, here’s the here’s a kind of suck birthday story, and then I’ll follow it up. Um, my 20th birthday, I think? No. I don’t- what did I turn the first — in 2017? That — was that my 18th birthday? My 18th birthday, my family, um, I flew home from school. And then we immediately drove to Atlanta to see Lindsey Stirling perform her Christmas album. Because I’d been listening to the Christmas album in my finals non-stop and I — we had like gotten tickets months before and I was so excited. But I had just gotten my lenses changed the day before I flew home. Do you remember this?
I feel like once you say a little bit more, I’ll remember.
And my computer like, completely broke the night before. So we spent the morning of my birthday at the Microsoft Store. Getting my computer fixed on the weekend of Thanksgiving in a panic. No, this was my 19th birthday. It was 19th birthday. And then I had the worst migraine of my — not really a migraine, but like, concussion pain of my life because my eyes couldn’t adjust to the new lenses. And then we went to the Lindsey Stirling concert, which was so strobe lights. And I was just in incredible pain. And I realized halfway through that she wasn’t playing the music. She was air-bowing. And I was I felt so cheated, [laughing hard] I didn’t listen to her music for like, two years after that. It was because she had just hurt her back on Dancing With the Stars. Um, so I was like, felt like someone had crushed my head with an anvil. And like, I had a package from Nicholas, who was my boyfriend at the time. And I was like, I really wanted to, I really wanted to FaceTime him while I opened his gift, like, as if we were in the same place and he was like, really hard to get ahold of because he had something going on with his friends that day. So then finally in the hotel after I suffered through this extremely painful concert, I got him on the phone. And the package was Elantris. It was a $9 book, we were together for three years at that point. [laughing] Two years previous to that, we were at my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. And my dad and I just snuck away went to Hot Topic in the middle of the day, and the bookstore, and he just like, bought me a bunch of books and some Spider-Gwen tights, which was really nice. But aside from my horrific 19th birthday story —
I think probably the other story that I have is like, when I was maybe like, four years old, it was Thanksgiving on my birthday, which happens every so often. Um, but I was just not having it. I was so confused and irritated. And we were at another of my aunt’s houses. And I did not realize that it was Thanksgiving until maybe like, 5pm that day —
— even though we’ve been there since like 10. So I had already gone through like one change of clothes, like I had a shower in her shower, and I’m wandering around in a bath towel eating a banana, like, and I’m like, why are we not eating, like, what’s going on? Because, like, it sounds kind of dumb. But I did not realize that it was Thanksgiving because we — the same like, amount of people that gathered for Thanksgiving in those days also gathered for my birthday every year — and all of my functions because I was the first child that there had been in 15 years. And everyone was wild and excited over me all the time. So there was nothing to indicate that it was not just a normal birthday. But then everyone was like we’re having turkey! And I was like, Why?
[laughing hard] What’s going on? And! To add to the confusion, one of my aunts was born on Thanksgiving Day. Her birthday is a different date than mine, but they always celebrated on Thanksgiving and disregard her actual date. So I was like, why is — why is this national holiday and one of my aunts edging in on this, like, what’s going on? I’m fairly certain that most of the day was like, we ate and then we, like, everyone gave me presents because I was four. And I remember getting a doll that was the same like, a fluffy doll that was the same height as me and because she was the same height I thought that I could fit in the little clear backpack that she came in. [both laughing] So I like, too long trying to fit my human self into basically an ita bag.
Because I did not understand mass. So. Maybe put together those kind of equal out your story. [laughing] Okay, um, I will now read the the cover copy for Ana on the Edge, which honestly, we loved this book so much. Like, Ron wrote a ~review~ on Goodreads about how good this book was. Like, I was telling my therapist like, oh, I’m a little bit better this week, like, Ron and I are getting back to the podcast, like, [laughing] you should recommend this book to anyone who comes through! And sent her the link. Okay. “For fans of George and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, a heartfelt coming of age story about a non-binary character navigating a binary world. 12-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So when Ana learns that next season’s program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success. Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage, and when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn’t correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he’s around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it’s tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking hard — risking years of hard work and sacrifice.”
Okay. And before we get further into it, we just have our trigger warnings. So I forgot to add the — there’s one that — we actually prepared this week for once, and I was like, hey, let’s get the list set before we record. And then I didn’t write it down. So I know that there’s one I’m forgetting, and you’ll just have to chime in with it at the end. But there’s gender dysphoria, specifically not body dysphoria, but like, social dysphoria. And being closeted, is a big part of this; coming out; misgendering, but there’s never like, malicious, intentional, misgendering; mild transphobic statements, which again, are not like, malicious statements; some strained relationships with and between parental figures. So like, there’s parental figures who are having a rocky relationship, and also children in both that family where the parents are having a rocky relationship. Those kids are also dealing with the stress of having parents who are having a rocky relationship, but also there’s the main character dealing with having an absent father figure, er, father.
Oh, you’re done?
Yeah. What was the last one? That you said, that I forgot.
Like, a, like, a depressive episode.
Oh, yes. Yes.
That was actually…quite a lot for me, who has been having a depressive episode for six weeks now? Reading about Ana’s misery, I just like, fell into a soft spiral of despair. It was, it was a lot. It was a lot. Oh, wait. And there was one more, um, it was like, pecuniary anxiety. Like, worry about money is —
So thoroughly threaded into this book.
Yes. Which — I’m so glad. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any other like, figure skating media. Or like, skating media that represents how expensive of a sport it is so well.
Oh, yeah. Be — Ana on the Edge kind of even pokes fun at this, because Ana is like, everyone around me is rich, their houses are huge!
Okay, so I feel like I’ll just get this out of the way before we start. So as mentioned, I used to be a figure skater. And I thought I’d just give a idea of like, my background? Before we talk about what’s going on in the book. Um, because I have some insider knowledge. But I was never anywhere near the level that the characters are at. I think I probably if there’s a character whose skating experience is most similar to mine, it’s definitely, um, god, what’s her name?
Starts with a T.
Oh, uh —
Tamar. Um, because I — like, Tamar’s experience was actually very similar to mine, just like, a little bit more advanced than I ever got. But anyway, so basically, I skated…I think I started around when I was eight, but I didn’t get super into it for a few years. Like, I used to go to basic skating, which is what the character Hayden is in.
Yeah, that’s my level.
Hayden’s like — Hayden’s like, very level, like, low level, like, Snowplow Sam skating. But I was —
I have notes about that.
[laughing] I — like, up until I got almost done with like, the basic eight skills, which is like basic skills for skating, I was not like, super into it. But then once I started getting to the end of that, and also like, heard about that they were starting like, a synchro team for kids around my age. Then I got more into it. And then I got like, really into it once I was doing synchro and started doing private lessons and stuff too. But then, basically, my parents got divorced and I moved. And that was my freshman year of high school. At that point, I was definitely well done with basic 8, but I also — partially because of money, partially because of what I didn’t know was dysphoria at the time — like, didn’t want to do the tests to get into higher levels. But my synchro team, similarly to Tamar’s synchro team, wanted to move up to the next level, which means everyone HAS to have taken the right tests to get up a level. I was actually going into the first level where you would have to take tests. And I was just like, I don’t wanna take the test! Why do I have to take the tests? I just want to do synchro! I never wanna like, skate solo, and compete solo. Why did they force me to take these tests? Also, just like, the tests are expensive, and you have to wear like, skating outfits, and the only skating outfits I owned, were my synchro ones, which were all like, very girly. Like. Anyway. [laugh]
Well, that kinda sucks. Like —
I feel like — not not only is it a very expensive sport, but I feel like there are unnecessarily — unnecessary costs that are prohibitive??
Oh, absolutely. Yes. Without a doubt. So basically, that combined with the fact that I was just like, dealing with a lot of other personal stuff ended up making — also, the other big thing is I switched teams. I absolutely loved my old team, and like, my old skating club that I was a part of. And then when I moved, I — like, everyone was — because my old team was very much like, we just love skating! And my new team was like, ~ we’re like, Cool Girls who like, are rich and all have matching practice uniforms and stuff, which like, the practice uniforms, were not expensive stuff. It was just like, we’re all going to make sure we all match. Whereas my old team, it was like, yeah, everyone wear black leggings and have like, a tie-dye blue t-shirt that says Peace, Love, Syncro. [laugh] Moving to the like, also like, yeah, just a lot of things. So I ended up stopping skating and never technically taking any tests. But the tests I would have — like, I was completely prepared for the test. But I just didn’t want to take it. I could have passed it, probably, if I took it. I just didn’t. But I should have taken my like, what test? My pre-juvenile test. And that’s like, a few? levels below where Tamar was. But like, the stuff that Tamar know- knew, like, I already knew some of that stuff. Before I quit, I just didn’t ever take any of the tests. So anyway, that’s my story. [laugh]
I have badges for basic one and basic two~.
I actually, while I was reading this book, I was like looking at COVID practices at my local rink that I like, like, Huh, seems pretty legit over there. Like, like, unfortunately, their adult skate school is like, on Saturday mornings, like, what happened to your nighttime ones?? It’s COVID. COVID happened to the nighttime ones. I don’t think I’m dedicated enough to go on Saturday mornings, because I can’t sleep. Um, but I’m like, I want to go back to skate school now. [laugh] Okay, actually, this ties into something that I liked very much, which is that there is like, a lot of levels of skating represented in this book. And everyone loves it. But for — well, everyone except Faith loves it — and they love that —
Faith doesn’t hate it, Faith just doesn’t — like, most of the people who are shown, it’s like their passion.
That’s why —
Or it’s something that they want to get more into. Whereas Faith is like, I really like doing this, but I’d really like to explore different things.
Faith is — Faith gave me huge Ice Princess vibes. Like, like, I haven’t watched that movie in so long. But like, I do remember that there was a girl who was so bitter that she couldn’t like, study for her math test or something. She was like, I love math!! I want to do good in math, but I can’t because I have to be skating all the time! So like, the nerdy girl is like, I will help you with math at the rink! [laugh]
One of my favorite things about this book is the fact that hockey is mentioned—
— but there’s never like a huge like, figure skaters hate hockey skaters!! Type thing.
There’s not! There’s actually — I love that — when I read the jacket, I thought Hayden was going to be a competitive skater too. But Hayden is like, I love cosplay and I think I’d like to get into hockey, but they won’t let me join the team until I know how to skate, so I should probably learn how to skate. [both laughing]
I also like that that’s addressed that like, when you’re starting out, and you’re a kid, and you’re in the basic skills program, the hockey skaters and figure skaters are all just learning the same stuff and lumped together. And I feel like way too many like — Oh my god, there’s this new Netflix show. I forget what it’s called. But it’s like, a horrible case of hockey versus figure skating, and both sports are represented in a really ridiculous way. Especially hockey.
Wait a second, isn’t Ana’s favorite movie a hockey movie?
Yeah. Um, but what I’m like, there’s so much a figure skating slash hockey media, where it’s like, well, the hockey skaters have no idea what it takes to be a figure skater, and the figure skaters have no idea what it takes to be a hockey skater!! And it’s like, no?? Like, past a certain point. That’s true. Because like, once you get good at either thing, you’re learning very different things. But like, like the Netflix, I forget what it’s called, it’s so bad. But it shows like, basically, the figure skaters are just like, skating circles around the hockey skaters, [laughing] and the hockey skaters can’t even catch UP with them, and I’m like, What??? You have to skate so fast to play hockey! These are supposed to be kids that are like, at the end of their high school hockey careers going on into college hockey. And they can’t skate as fast as a figure skater. And I’m like, [laughing] WHAAAT?
I think that — that figure skaters get like, a lot more social pressure early on, then hockey skaters do like —
Familial pressure, like, pressure from private coaches and like, like there’s a lot of intense personal pressure as far as I understand. Whereas hockey, it’s like, there’s other people suffering with you.
Yeah. Which I think is also part of why I liked synchro better. Because then you’re working as a team. Instead of like, you have to do this alone.
There is a reason that I enjoy playing in bands and I’m not trying to make it as a solo flutist. [both laugh] This book is so good.
Do you know also, also Ana never belittles anyone who’s below her level.
Ana is a national champion. And her best friend is…Ron-level skating. And they like trained at the same rink forever. And they like, meet up to watch hockey movies all the time. And like, Ana helps her sometimes because Ana is more advanced, but like, never says anything about her level, never disparages her, like, Ana literally meets Hayden through, um, Hayden is in like, the first level, like, just-joined, can’t-skate classes, and Ana is helping teach them and — teach the classes. And Ana like, never even thinks nasty things about um, like, beginners.
Like, it’s, it’s so refreshing. Also, I realized, um, we’re going to be using she/her pronouns for Ana in this, correct?
Um, I don’t know, I think it depends.
Um, I believe Ana is — it says non-binary but I think also agender in I — I Ana definitely described a gender things in the book. But at the end of at the end of the book, Ana is very gender neutral. Um, but uses she/her pronouns throughout AJ Sass has said publicly that, um, he headcannons that Ana will eventually use they/them pronouns.
Yeah. And I guess what I mean by like, when I find myself talking about this book, because I’ve talked about it to people other than you, I kind of use both she and they? Like, I tend to use they if I’m like, guessing about something that isn’t on the page.
But if I’m talking about something that’s on the page, then I use the pronouns that were used in that scene. You know what I mean?
Yes, yes. The literary present is a — is a tricky bitch.
Yeah. [laughing] Um, so anyway, um, also, there’s a lot of Michelle Kwan love.
Yes, there is! Oh my god.
And I appreciate that. I had a Michelle Kwan snow globe up until very recently, and then gave it to Annaliese, because Annaliese collects snow globes, and I just kept moving it around my house like, I have no idea what to do with this thing! So. [both laughing]
Ana is — Ana is Chinese-American, and possibly, also Hawaiian, and Jewish! And I love it.
Just some casual, non-white Jewish representation, like.
Also like, just considering the things going on in the world right now, it was a nice to read a good, happy story about like, an Asian-American trans character.
Definitely. Um, also, I loved that there were like, just little things like, Oh my god, once I come out, like, what am I going to do about the mitzvah ceremony? I don’t want a bat mitzvah and I don’t want a bar mitzvah, but I still want a mitzvah!!
I know, I was really glad that was also like — because at first, like, Ana doesn’t bring it up for a really long time. But then it does finally come up at the end. And I was like, Okay, cool. I’m glad that we’re discussing this. I also like —
Okay, the last note is that like, non-binary mitzvah is absolutely allowed some places because —
— literally, my note says, “Jewish people are very cool.” [both laugh]
Is it just called a mitzvah ceremony, then?
That’s what Ana said.
So yeah, like, cuz that’s something that I’m curious about. Like, I’d be interested to talk to someone who like, had a non-binary mitzvah ceremony and hear what they think.
Okay, it’s — “a guide for the gender neutral, b mitzvah.” [both laughing] B dash mitzvah. “My Rabbi was super cool about it. Why I had a gender neutral, b dot, dot dot.” “Bar or Bat Mitzvah? Hey, what about a both mitzvah?” [both laughing]
The only thing I remember about my own personal experiences with mitzvahs is that when I was like a small child, one of my sister’s friends had hers, and there was a caricature artist at it. And like, I had a caricature done and my sister had one done and my mom had one done, and then they were hung up in our house for years. And that’s all I remember, because I was a small child.
Mitzvah parties are pretty dope.
[laugh] Something that like — I just recently read On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, —
— and something that I was — and Annaliese read it immediately after I read it, because I was like, read it! And Annaliese was like, yeeeeah, and then also — funny story. Sorry, Annaliese. But Annaliese listened to it, and somehow accidentally skipped like three chapters towards the end. And then at the end was like, Ah, that ending was like, really abrupt.
I feel like a lot of stuff didn’t get wrapped up. And I was like, Oh my god, no! [laugh] But anyway, the reason I brought that up is because one of the things Annaliese and I talked about really liking from Angie Thomas’s writing in general, is how fleshed out and real all the characters seem and how like, you want to know more about every single one of them. And I think that’s something that AJ Sass does really well, too.
So anyway, as the jacket tells us, the story is the everything begins when — so first. [laugh] Okay, as we know from the jacket, everything kind of begins when Ana goes to talk to Hayden and gets — so Ana wears her coach’s name tag. And it says Alex, which — interestingly! — is a gender neutral name. But Hayden assumes that Ana uses he/him pronouns. And Ana just like, doesn’t correct. Which is like, right there. It’s just like, okay, you — you realize you’re not cis now right? [laughing]
She doesn’t because she doesn’t have the words for it.
Yeah, but also like, immediately knows that there’s a reason that like, even before meeting Hayden, Ana’s like, “I’m really interested in this person who I know is trans. I’m not sure, but I know that that means something for me.” [laugh]
Her hatred of the fact that um, the the fancy choreographer made her wear a skirt and she’s like, skirts are Evil. [laugh] Like, I can’t skate in a skirt. It feels awful. It’s distracting. Oh no. What if my mom makes me wear a dress to my bat mitzvah???
Yeah, my first ever synchro uniform, or costume whatever was like a pink — like, HOT pink, like hot, hot pink, fuzzy dress. With like, a kind of a ruffled bottom to the skirt, that was like, a shiny checker pattern. And I never let my coach hear the end of how much I hated it. And then it made the other teammates basically back me up and also say they didn’t like it either [laughing]. What year was this? [laughing] I don’t — I don’t remember. But then the next season, um, my coach — we skated to a song that was from the movie RIO. Um, so we had like, rainbow dresses that were kind of designed to look like the tail of a parrot pluming out —
— and I actually liked those better, because I was like, this makes sense. [laughing] And also, I was like, at that point in my life, I definitely knew I cared about gay things. So I was kind of like, ooh, a rainbow. [laughing]
I’m so distracted by the fact that you described the horrific red- hot pink dress as…fuzzy?
Yeah, it was like a um — what kind of material would that be? I don’t know what the name for the material is. But um, you know the material that’s like a little bit like the material squish mellows are made out of. But the — the fur is a slight, slight, slight bit longer.
It was kind of like that.
This dress seems like a shit show, but also, it would be very soft?
Honestly, I think I finally — like, I kept all my skating clothes for a really long time, even though I was never going to put them on my body ever again. And also, they wouldn’t fit at this point. But like —
You are grown.
I think I got rid of them a while ago, because I was just like, they’re just taking up space. But I wish I could show you a photo. I could — I could show you… I wish I could like show it to you so I could get the texture in it. I do have a picture. Um, God, like. I really loved skating, but standing like.. So something about Ana in this book is — Ana’s 12 and still doesn’t have to wear a bra. And if I’d been like that in skating, I feel like I would have been a lot more comfortable.
I hope Ana gets puberty blockers, like, ASAP.
Yeah, I was thinking that too. But also, like, when you’re a super like, high level athlete like that. It generally helps.
Yeah, for sure she is. She’s —
But like, not only did I like, hit puberty before anyone else on my team, I was also just like, I’m not built like a figure skater. Like, so I hit puberty before anyone else on my team. But along with that, like, I was also just not built like anyone else on my team, I was very much taller and broader. And also didn’t know until — I mean, didn’t technically know, I knew, but I didn’t get diagnosed with thyroid problems until literally very recently. [laugh] So I was just — I just felt like a giant on top of like, dysphoria. And I was just like, Don’t make us wear these costumes. At least when I’m just in my leggings and a sweatshirt I like, feel like I blend in. But like literally, I was the tallest person on my team by like a head.
[horrified laugh] I — I have been thinking with all of the puberty blocker discourse recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “hit puberty,” and it makes me feel like you’re just a child, like, living your life and then you smack into puberty and like, die.
And that was not my experience at all. Kind of like what happened for me with puberty was I like started to grow breasts very, very slowly. And I wore bralettes for ages until I literally like they didn’t make any more and then I switched to real bras for like half a second, not real, like, I never wore an underwire, God bless. I couldn’t handle it. Um, and then the moment that I could, I switched back to bralettes, that’s my life now. But, aside from very slowly growing breasts, like, the only other thing that happened to me for like, years was that I just grew so fast that I broke bones constantly. [laugh] Like, my puberty was much more like, I stepped on my foot wrong, and now it’s broken, or like I was getting out of the car, and now my knee is fucked up, like, “I grew like five inches in a year, what’s going on!” — than anything that’s like, specifically secondary sexual characteristics. Like, I had broken all of the bones I was going to break before I got my period. [laughing] It was gentle as far as secondary sexual characteristics, but I broke all of the bones I’ve ever broken during that period of my life.
Oh, um, this is just a side note, but as long as we’re reading a book about figure skating, if you want to know how committed I was to figure skating at the height of my passion for figure skating… So after I was already done with basic 8, I think I was probably in my second year of synchro by then. And I was practicing for the tests that I never took. Um, so there was this step sequence that I had to do. And I started getting like, really, really fast at it. And so at one point, I was just doing it without really even thinking about what I was doing. And then like, I was thinking about something else entirely and got distracted, and my blades hit each other. And I fell down. And my armpit went completely flat on the ice with my arm up, meaning my shoulder was almost absolutely dislocated. Because I know other people who have fallen in the exact same way, and they all dislocated their shoulders. And I was like, ooh, that hurts. And I just pulled my shoulder to the side and heard like, a popping noise. So I’m pretty sure I put it back in.
And then my coach came over and was like, Oh, my God, are you okay? And I was like, Yeah, I’m fine. I just want to keep working on this, and kept skating. And then as soon as I got off the ice after my practice, time was up. I was like, Hey, Mom, can we go to the ER?
Oh my god!!
And it was sprained. [laughing] I just didn’t want to get off the ice. I was like, No! I still have almost an hour left! [laugh]
Oh my god. Okay, so helping with skate school. Ana grabs the wrong name tag. And Hayden thinks that Ana is a very cool boy named Alex.
Yeah. So something that I don’t — at least I didn’t understand from the jacket, is that Ana does not correct Hayden…for a long time. Like, they form a relationship.
It’s like a month and a half.
Ana goes over to his house. Multiple times. To hang out. And meets his entire family. And does not correct.
I actually really liked the way this was handled because Hayden — so Ana doesn’t want to be called Alex. [laugh] So tells people to just call her “A.” And they’re using he/him pronouns. And Ana is like, Ooh, that’s new. And then after a while Ana is like, No, I don’t like that. It’s not — that’s not right, either. Um, but so like a month and a half passes. And then Hayden sees all of these beautiful, glossy photos of Ana, like, with her full name from nationals, and feels very personally betrayed because he’s 13 and is like, Oh, my God, did this person like, who I’ve been cultivating a close friendship with? Pretend to be a different gender just mock me?? Like, but fortunately, after things cool down a little bit, and Ana is able to be like, to come out to some people, like, they’re able to have a talk and Ana is like, I didn’t know any things. I definitely wasn’t meaning to hurt you. Like, I wasn’t making fun of you. And Hayden is able to realize that it’s not about him. It was totally about Ana.
Which…I really liked that it was like, this is something that was legit to have hurt feelings about. It’s not like necessarily logical. It’s not necessarily like, kind and compassionate, but it’s totally realistic, and like, putting effort in and making up is also realistic. And —
— it was good. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it very much.
Um, so another like, through line is basically — we mentioned Tamar, Tamar’s like, Ana’s best friend, but at the beginning, basically, the very opening scene is when Ana becomes the junior national champion. And after that, it’s like, Okay, so now we’re gonna have you move to a new rink, and like, start doing some different training because you’re going to be moving up to the next level now. And so Tamar is from Ana’s old rink. And that’s where they would see each other a lot. But they’re like, well, it’s fine, because we still hang out, like, outside of everything. But then it’s not fine. And Ana is a bad friend and a very realistic way. And just like —
Not necessarily like, doing anything but more like friendship —
— degredation mechanics.
Yeah. Like Ana, just like, keeps forgetting to, well, Ana keeps like, is obviously dealing with like, gender stuff, and also worrying about money. And like, worrying about skating, because part of what’s making Ana stressed out about gender stuff is that the new like, Russian figure skating coach designed — choreographed a like, princess program. And Ana’s like, Oh, I don’t like that at all! That makes me feel really bad, and I’m not 100% sure why!
Yeah, that’s a theme.
It’s — , it’s Sleeping Beauty. So she’s supposed to be acting as Sleeping Beauty. And she’s like, this is not me. This sucks. And I think she performs the program several times, like, very aggressively and she’s like, I am a person who does great aggressive choreography. I am good at short and sharp, and like, strong. Like, none of this, like flowery b-bullshit. Like, I don’t, I can’t — I can’t skate feeling vulnerable. So. Yeah.
And like, people keep assuming that it’s because it’s —
— difficult choreography? And it’s like, no, it’s —
[laughing] Not hard at all!
Like, the emotion of it is bad.
Um, there’s definitely, like, Ana keeps trying to like to, like ,pump herself up, like, acting as part of skating! And I’m kind of like, I was like, shaking the phone, like, doesn’t have to be if it hurts you??? Like, is that necessary? Like, obviously, there is — actually Victoria and I just had a very long discussion about like, normalization of different types of abuse in sports environments. [laugh] I definitely — I definitely like the precedent that this book sets that like, actually, you don’t have to hurt. You don’t have to be causing yourself emotional damage to do this.
Mm-hmm. And I also think what’s important is like, making it clear that it IS an act? Is part of what’s bothering Ana, because like, it’s not like, because in the end, Ana does still decide to partly, like, do princess stuff —
I think, but like, they literally couldn’t afford to do something else.
I mean, but it’s also not like — Ana doesn’t feel bad about it anymore.
And like, because it’s made clear to anyone who’s watching that it’s not like, “this is who I am.” It’s like, “this is a performance,” which I think was what was the biggest, most important part.
That was definitely important for Ana to like, get in her head because, as we’ve said, she doesn’t experience body dysphoria. She experiences social dysphoria. So she’s very conscious of how other people see her and she does not want people to think that she’s a girl. Which…is nightmarish when she has this extremely expensive princess dress to play Sleeping Beauty.
Yeah. And also like, in a sport, where there’s — like, it’s a heavily, heavily gendered sport.
N-no! [sarcastically] No, are you serious?
I’ve never heard anything about that! [switching to sincere] I did like that — there was just some casually queer people on the side —
— like her — her coach is gay, and has a husband, and I think she was the flower girl at their wedding? Like, when she was a little girl. Um, and, like, the husband pops up once or twice to just be like, Hey, how’s it going, like, we’re part of your life, kind gay uncles [laugh] in the background. And like, they definitely like, like, see pride flags and enjoy them during, during pride month and then at the end of the month Ana is like, there’s nothing to celebrate anymore! [both laughing]
Um, so like, kind of very relatedly — so basically all these things are building up and building up. And then there’s, like GiannaMarie already mentioned the part where Hayden’s, like, You lied to me! And they’re not friends anymore. And also, at this point Tamar is like, hey, you’ve been being a really crappy friend lately, I’ve been going through a lot, and anytime I talk to you about it, you like don’t pay attention, or you just aren’t there for me to talk to at all. And so this gets into the depressive episode that we mentioned earlier. And —
This was a very well written depressive episode as well.
I’ve read books that are about depression, I’ve read a number of books about people like who are institutionalized for depression and such. And this felt much more real, possibly because it aligns with more of my experience with depressive episodes than… Other things, but it was not over the top, it was very much just like, I’m sinking into a misery that cannot be lifted. The world is oppressing. Like, Ana thinks that she can’t come — like, she has imposed on herself that she can’t come out, because — if she tells her mom, like, this princess program is going to destroy me, then her mom will have wasted all of this extremely precious money on stuff that isn’t getting used. And they just don’t have the funds for that. And that was so real. Like, I’ve, I’ve never been, I’ve never been on as tight of budget as Ana’s family, but like, holy shit, did I feel the anxiety.
But I also think, like, it seems like Ana doesn’t quite understand the budget?
Yes, she’s very anxious, but she’s not privy to all the details.
Yeah. Because Ana gets really stressed out by the amounts of money, but doesn’t actually know like, how much income is coming in. Just knows what’s going out. And like, it definitely seems like Ana’s mom has a good job. Not a good enough job to like, totally pay for skating and life with no worries. But like, a solid job. Plus, like, a second, like, side hustle type job.
And like, Ana’s always just stressing out about like, every penny spent, but it’s like, you wouldn’t be able to afford to do you figure skating at all if you are in a situation bad enough where like, you’re going to like, be destitute from paying for things. Like — [laugh]
Like, we definitely need to clarify. Like, they have money for food, like, they have money — it’s — it’s not like, a Lifetime movie, where it’s like, we’re putting all of the money into figure skating, so we live in a hovel, like.
Yeah, like, they just — they live in —
They have a studio apartment, and it works for them.
— a studio — apart- Yeah, a studio apartment when like all the other people that Ana knows live in —
— houses. Yeah. Um, but also I think, as someone —
She — she has — they pay to get her hair cut at like, a hair salon. Like they can — like, that’s not a worry for her mom to be like, Here’s $15 to go get a new haircut —
— instead of like cutting her hair at home.
Like they — they’re, they’re more stable and more comfortable than Ana thinks they are. But I definitely understand why she feels like this.
Yeah. And also like, um, like, I think a few telling details are like, at the beginning. Ana’s mom is like, Hey, would you be willing to do this thing to make extra money? Because basically, Ana’s told that by helping out with figure skating, ice time at that rank will be paid for. Like, helping out with the coaching.
Which, that’s an incredible deal, and Ana jumps at it immediately, even — it made me so sad that like, she’s 12 and she’s worrying so much about money.
Um, like, oh my god, the — she goes to like, an amusement park with Hayden’s family and like, pulls out like her $10 from her grandmother from Chinese New Year, preparing to pay and I was like, I just felt my heart crack. [both laugh] I’m so glad Hayden’s family is like, no, we’re — we invited you out, we’re paying for it, I’m like, good! You better be!!
You have a three story house and four children!!
But another — another thing is like, Ana keeps talking about the quote unquote, designer skater bags that the other skaters with more money have.
— and listen, I know exactly what bag —
— it’s called a ZUCA bag. I have one. They’re not that expensive. Like, I’m pretty sure if you buy them brand new on the actual website, they can be upwards of like, 300 ish dollars, which is definitely a lot to pay for a bag. But if you just Google them, you can find, especially if you’re willing to buy like, a slightly used one. You can easily spend like, $100 or less on one.
I just typed in ZUCA bag and the first thing that came up was $45 from Amazon.
Well, that’s probably just one of the inserts, not the bag.
Cuz it’s like, a two part bag. Yeah. So there’s like the metal frame thing.
That you sit on.
And there’s like an insert thing. And like, if you’re a real rich kid, you can have multiple insert things — Whew! — and like, switch them out and have different colors, whatever. Also, she says the lights —
— the wheels, sparkle, I need to specify, the wheels don’t sparkle, they —
Ron and GiannaMarie 1:01:32
Which is the best. Okay, literally. Literally, my note is: “I never even skated competitively, and I still want the sparkly roll bags.”
Yes! So basically —
[laugh] They’re the bomb!
I think the main reason I ended up with one was because I was on a synchro team where like, at least half the team had them. And I was like, I feel left out! And so it was like a fancy gift I got. But it’s still like — and I don’t think Ana really wants one. So I think that’s the reason that purchase hasn’t been made. But I’m sure if Ana was like, I really want a ZUCA bag! They could afford it.
Like, it would be a gift, it would be for an occasion, but —
Yeah, like a Christmas gift or something, yeah.
She’s like, determinedly looking at like, Well, my skates are in a duffel bag. But my duffel bag holds them just as well!!
Because I think that’s the other thing too, is like, I don’t think Ana realizes, a lot of people struggle to pay for skating. And that isn’t like, a solitary experience. Because it seems like Ana’s very self conscious about it and doesn’t want to talk to other people about it. But like, it’s very expensive. Definitely like, it seems like Faith and Hope don’t have an issue, their family is…really loaded, but I promise, there are plenty of people who do figure skating who can’t just like, throw money at it however they want.
I didn’t pull a lot of quotes. But the one quote that I did pull was — so Ana is not supposed to like know how much things cost, like, but she does calculate how much she’s saving, like, several thousand dollars a month for her ice time, because by helping out the one day she’s getting like, four or five hours of ice time out of it. Four or five hours a day, I’m sorry, out of it. Um, and she’s like, I can’t come out to my mom until like, until I’m done with the princess program, because, and there’s this quote, “sorry you spent thousands of dollars to get me the best choreography and costume, but I just found out I’m not a girl and I don’t want to perform my princess program.” [both laughing]
Oh, this is just a side note. I’m looking through my notes. And another thing that you should know about me, listeners.
[giggling] This is Ron, the secret backstory.
Is that this although I used to be a figure skater, I’m now — I mean, people might already know this. I’m in addition to being a past figure skater. I am now studying to be a librarian. And I could have written an essay on Ana’s searching skills.
Oh my god.
So first of all, Ana takes forever to get around to the idea, hey, maybe I should google this! And it was frustrating me so much. I have so many notes of just like, Google it, Google it, Google it!!! [laughing]
She grew up in the digital age and she doesn’t Google anything. [laugh]
And then when like, the first Google Ana does? Is like, so bad. What was it? I’m going to try and find the page. Like, just the search terms. The search terms were not…not it.
[laugh] That’s true, but also, I need to tell listeners that Ron is like, a black belt in Google fu.
That is true.
Like, Ron is extraordinarily skilled at Google. Even within the ranks of librarians.
At least the ones in library school. I’m — I’m not as good as my professors.
[ominous] We’ll see.
We, for reference, if anyone’s like, how do you know that? We literally had an assignment where we had to Google answers to reference questions, and I got them all in one search, and everyone else was like, first I searched this, and then I searched that, and then I searched to this other thing. And I was like, why? [both laughing]
Listening to Ron be in grad school is a roller coaster, because half of the time it’s like, “I’m more miserable than I’ve ever been in my entire life” And the rest of the time is like, “this is so easy, I love life! —
— “I can’t wait to do this for the rest of my jobs.”
Well, the thing is, nothing is particularly hard most of the time, it’s just that there’s so much of it.
Um, okay, where is? Oh, here it is. I believe that’s 221, because my note says, Oh, my God, these Google skills are killing me. In all caps.
In all caps.
Oh, that’s 121. I can’t count. So this is what Ana Googles: so first Ana googles Kingdom Hearts, which is unrelated, because Hayden really likes Kingdom Hearts. Um, just as a side note, Hayden like, starts explaining Kingdom Hearts to to Ana, and that’s another thing I’ve never related to more in my life because one time on a road trip to a convention, it was just me and my friend Aaron in the car. And Aaron just told me the entire plot of Kingdom Hearts during the road trip. It was like an hour and a half. [laugh] And he just told me the entire plot of Kingdom Hearts so far. [laughing]
I have also been in a car on the way to a convention, with five people in a Prius, with everyone’s costumes, trying not to kill someone’s Keyblade that they made. [both laughing] Its — Keyblades are so fragile when you make them!
And they’re very large.
They’re so big, they’re so big!! It was so difficult to like, keep it safe in the trunk. [laugh] There was so much going on. I miss going to conventions with people. Anyway, I — Hayden’s whole family is involved in his cosplay, like his dad helps him, Ana helps him, like, it’s so — it’s so wholesome. That like, when Ana comes over, it’s like, oh, we’ll sew together and work on your cosplay. Like, I missed this. [laughing] Living vicariously through people just hope somebody’s working on cosplays together. [sniffling] Weeps in my corner. Okay, go ahead.
So Ana’s next search term. Think —
The next search term is “boys versus girls.” I’m sorry, but think about that for 10 seconds. Like, think — like, you’re probably just going to get a Google result of like, “boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider,” like — [laughing hard] or like, Oh my god, you’re just gonna get like dumb memes. And like, uh, please. Shall we search it now and see what happens? And then, the next one is slightly better. But still, like, think about it. It’s just gonna be like, biology and like, more dumb memes. Because the next thing Ana searches is “the difference between boys and girls.”
Would you like to know — “boys versus girls.” All of the results are videos. “Boys versus girls. Funny difference between women and men.” “Boys versus girls morning routine —
— moments and fun real.” “Boys versus” — Oh, wait, no. These are all parts for a movie called Boys vs Girls.
It was a comedy that came out in 2020! That’s why they’re all videos!! Okay, so apparently, you’re not going to get any dumb names, you’re just going to get advertisements for this movie that presumably came out after AJ Sass wrote this book. [both laughing]
Then there’s “the difference between boys and girls.” According to Ana, this gives links on brain science. I think it would probably also give some transphobic content. Um, but literally why — Okay, so later, Ana does think to search the gender neutral pronouns that they heard about —
Wait, it actually is brain science.
Nice. See, this is — it was probably accurate before that movie came out, for the first one too.
There’s a little bit of that movie still coming in, but it is — it is brain science.
So after that -
What else should I search to see if it was right or not? [laugh]
Well, no, the next search that Ana does is better, because Ana’s searches zai — z? Zai? Zir/zirs?
It’s like the ze/zir/zirs pronouns. Um, which I’ve never met anyone who actually uses them. So I don’t know how to say them out loud. But, um, and that obviously gets better results, because there’s not really anything, like, else that would show up for those. But like, the whole time, I was just thinking, why don’t you just Google like, “I don’t feel like a boy or a girl,” you would definitely find non-binary stuff. Like, absolutely. And you’d probably find even more accurate results than what you found about gender neutral stuff and more options for like, all the things you could be. But anyway, that’s just my librarian brain not being able to shut up. [laughing] If anyone ever needs help with a Google search, please call me.
You know where to go.
I also — now that I’m in library school, I’m really deadly, because I know how all the like, Boolean operators work and stuff.
Boolean operators is definitely a term I haven’t heard in a while and never hope to hear again.
Well, unless you’re a librarian, you usually don’t need them.
I would like to be done with school now, thank you.
This is supposed to be my last semester but that’s only supposed I was supposed to have graduated the same semester that Ron graduated, but — that didn’t happen —
This is —
— our epic platonic love story happened instead.
[laughing] Okay, so this is another thing. Um, and I think a lot of books lately have been doing this, and I really appreciate it. But like, there’s never any self-hate for being non-binary.
You’re right, there’s not! Also —
It’s just like — I’m really frustrated that I have to deal with this and figure out how it is, but it’s never like, why am I like this? And I love it.
And — and the coming out stuff was very wholesome as well —
— because Ana finally is kind of cornered into coming out and once they realize that, Alex is like, we did not mean to corner you into coming out. We were just trying to check if you were okay.
Because Ana like has said that she’s sick and doesn’t want to go to practice anymore. And everyone is like, this is a five alarm fire.
Ana usually cannot wait to get on the ice. Something is seriously wrong. So Ana finally does come out and they’re — her mom. Their mom is, like, a little overwhelmed and upset at first, but I think that that’s mostly because Ana is like, I didn’t want to tell anyone how miserable I was, because…of all this money.
Yeah. And also —
And their mom is like, but you are so much more important than the money!
Yeah. And also like, um, Ana…like, the the biggest thing about the mom’s reaction is — the mom doesn’t — has never heard of that before. The mom’s like, what…is non-binary? Which is like, also a piece of representation that I like, because that’s definitely a common reaction…
I…If I’m not mistaken, I think I might have asked you that when you came out to me.
I think you might have known at that point, because you went to Hampshire at that point.
Oh, right. I’m dumb, never mind. [laughing]
I think…I think you asked what it specifically meant for me. Yeah,
Yes, that’s definitely a question that I asked.
When I came out to my mom, I had to explain what it meant.
And it does a very good job and explaining, actually —
She’s like, I don’t feel like a boy or girl or either sometimes, and that’s like, it.
And she’s able to kind of concisely be like, my body is great. Like, I’m really strong. And I look cool. I just hate dresses —
Ah, Ana works out for like, five hours a day. She’s…amazing.
I met so when I was like, at the height of my skating, before I moved away. My, like, I had one friend who would just have me stand on my toes, cuz then like all your leg-, your leg muscles like, get tense and just like, poke my leg because it felt like concrete. [both laughing]
Um, more about realistic representation: Tamar is also 12. And Tamar says a couple of mildly transphobic things, like, when they go to get — when Ana goes to get a haircut, Ana picks a ~boys’ haircut~ and Tamar is like, but that’s a boy’s haircut! And like, says some things about gender reveal parties, because I think her family like, has a catering company or something? Yeah. And honestly, is something sees some gender reveal cupcakes and immediately, like, their heart starts to like, pound out of their chest. You can have a party to reveal your gender???? And Tamar is like, no, it’s for babies, what are you talking about?
And Ana is like, concerned about this. And I was like, Oh, no, is Tamar gonna be a transphobe? Like, they seemed like they were really good friends. I’m so sad!! And then when Ana actually comes out to Tamar, Tamar is like, oh….okay, cool. [both laughing] And, like, has no problems with anything, and Ana is like, I’m so afraid to talk to you about this because of such and such, and Tamar was like, Ooh, I can see how that — I could see how that would have been hurtful. Yeah, okay. [both laughing] Won’t say that anymore. I see some different things are going on now. Thank you for telling me.
Also just -
And repair their friendship!
Like, backtracking slightly. It made me so happy that like, Ana does have a gay coach, and like —
Like, cuz her coach is the one who knows to ask like, hey, what should we use for pronouns?
And Ana’s like, well, I’m still figuring it out. So keep using she/her. And like —
That’s also nice and realistic!
You don’t automatically know what pronoun — like, what — Hayden has, like, his walls are decorated with like, pronouns that he’s cut out of things in different languages. And Ana is like, Oh, my God, all of the options! I love it!
And is totally bewitched by them. So Ana is like, I’m still thinking about it. Because I know there’s a world of fantastic pronouns out there that will find me one day.
Hayden’s pronoun mall.
I love it. [both laughing] I feel like Ana is just like, like, you know, when you click on an iPhone and scroll through things, and it makes a delightful little ticking thing? Uh-huh. I feel like that’s kind of what Ana is doing this whole book. Like, like the toggle is stuck on she for a while, and then the toggle goes to he for a while and then Ana is like, like, [whizzing noises, laughing] the scroll is just broken. I definitely get agender vibes off of how Ana describes their experience, even though the word agender is never used, which honestly is feels realistic to me that Ana wouldn’t have discovered agender —
Yeah, I’m sure —
— just, from the preliminary searches.
Something else that I was thinking along with, oh my god, now I’m thinking about, Okay, last semester, I did a project on the information behavior of transgender people. And like how people approach information differently because of being trans, and like, what libraries can do to help trans people specifically. And one of the most common information sources trans people turn to is other trans people.
And so something that I was like, really, like, I was basically this entire book, I kept writing in my notes up until the point where on a finally did Google stuff, if you’re not going to Google then ask Hayden. Like, because I’m sure Hayden knows about stuff. Like, Hayden might not know every single thing Ana wants to know, because Hayden isn’t non-binary, so might not necessarily know a lot about being non-binary and like the various like, smaller subcategories under that umbrella, but like….Ana wouldn’t even have had that come out. Could have just been like, hey, so like, I heard of this thing, or like, oh, like I heard these pronouns are for like, they’re like, not boy pronouns or girl pronouns? Like, what exactly does that mean? Like, what do those people do? Or something. And like, never does? [laughing] And I assume that happens off page, I assume it happens later, like, in their relationship after the book is over, and they like probably bond and like, are like, Yay, gay community. And next year they’ll go to the Pride Parade together.
I was about to say!!
Alex and his husband will take them to pride —
— and they’ll all have a wonderful time.
That’s another thing. I miss going to pride.
Do you know, I was like, what was I going to say? I was I’m I have been like getting more comfortable with like the ace community in the last year. And I was like, actually kind of ramping up towards like, Hmm, maybe I’ll ask Ron to do some things during pride or something. And then pandemic.
So after pandemic, when we can see people again, maybe we could do some pride things. I would like that.
The last pride I went to was the summer that I came out as non-binary.
I remember getting so many happy photos from you that y- that month.
Yeah, I was visiting my sister in Nebraska. Omaha, we went to the Omaha pride, and it was so fun. Like, I don’t know if it was that it was my first pride where I was legal drinking age, or if it was that the pride in that city is better than the pride in that I’ve gone to before. But like it was just so fun. And like, we met a bunch of people that like, were complete strangers, but were somehow under the LGBT umbrella. And like, just hung out and talked and stuff. And like, I’d just cut my hair like a week or two before that, like, had my first trans hair cut, which is like, also something that I loved from this book.
Your hair was…your hair was pretty gay before that.
Yeah, but it was long, like —
But it had the — the buzzy undercut. You were on your way.
That’s true. I did have a little undercut because I got annoyed from my hair touching my neck. [laughing]
Ron has beautiful hair.
But also like -
Not right now. Ron has almost no hair right now. When there is hair, Ron has beautiful hair.
So you’re saying the hair that I have isn’t beautiful?
It’s not curling now, is it? [screeching laughter]
This is hair body shaming!
[continued screeching] Ron’s hair is cut very short at the moment. And looks too much like my dad’s haircut. No, I’m just teasing. Ron’s hair is always beautiful. But the absolutely scandalized face that I got was so worth it. I wanted to say, I really loved the relationship between her and her mom, because it gets kind of strained when Ana is like, Oh, I guess I’m in the closet. And is really worried about money. But like, they have a really sweet and loving and caring relationship. And like, they have a shared calendar and like, they have scheduled like, quality time every — every week. No, that’s from a manuscript I was reading for Tori. [both laughing] Never mind! I just got really confused. They do have a shared calendar, it does not have quality time scheduled on it! Tamar and — and Ana do share a calendar later and put their quality time on the calendar. But they do have like, a day that they go out together when Ana comes out. And it’s very sweet. Um, and — [laughing now]
And they also —
— Ana’s mom is like, completely good about everything.
And when they like, eventually do, like, work on the strain in their relationship, they talk about the fact that like, they’re going to shift around the order they do things in the evening so that they’ll be able to spend more time together. Because normally —
And they talk more openly about her dad. Because that’s usually not something they talk about. But when Ana sees that Hayden’s dad, uh… exists? And he’s such a dad, I mean, like a capital D Dad, you know what I mean? Like, he helps sew the cosplay, come on, and he cooks for them and he cooks vegetarian food for Ana when she comes over. She’s like, mmm, this makes me think about dads in general, I wonder. [laugh] Um, it’s — and her mom is like, really completely good with all of the gender stuff and like, immediately they work on finding a program that doesn’t make Ana miserable. So at the end, like, the program that Ana performs, very passionately is like — and Faith, who is a friend she’s been kind of cultivating — helps her cut the music so it’s part Sleeping Beauty being a damsel in distress and it’s part Prince Charming arriving on the scene. And Hayden and his dad help her alter the fancy expensive uniform with their cosplay skills. So she has a little bit of a shirtfront going on, so she can switch in the, in her program between like, princess and prince. And she’s like, I am Living. Like, she’s so happy and supported. At the end. It’s, it was such a delight. [laugh] I’m so happy about this book. I knew we were happy about it before we read it, but honestly, it the happiness increased to on an exponential level, at least for me.
Yeah? Cuz you were wildly excited about it before we even read it. I’m glad that it also was like — [explosion noise]
Like, I was not expecting it to honestly, just…like, I don’t think I have ever related to a book more than I relate to this book.
Like, I was expecting to obviously relate to it. But I don’t think I’ve ever like, pretty much — every chapter for sure, almost every page. I was like, yup, yup, yup. Like, that’s another thing. Is like, a kind of sappy thing, I guess. But like, my mom, and like, my relationship with my mom and, Ana’s relationship…Like, also reminds me? Especially like, worrying about like, money, but having a parent who’s like, no, like, I know that you love this thing. And I’m going to like, make sure that you can do it.
Like, which was part of why I was then like, like, Ana, relax, like, you don’t even know how much income is coming in, I think you’re like exaggerating how bad this is, because like, I just know what it’s like to have a parent who will do whatever it takes to make ends meet so that you can pursue your sport. And like —
That’s very sweet.
Also, just like I already mentioned, like I had to explain to my mom, what non-binary means. My mom, I think — my mom was definitely more like, attuned to queerness though, before that, because I’d also already come out —
— as gay before I’d ever come out as non-binary. And also like my sister’s pan, and like, we have gay family and friends and stuff. So it wasn’t like, whoa!! But like…
I’m, like, scanning my bookshelves, like, and I don’t think I’ve ever related to a book as heavily as you related to this book.
Like, possibly the closest thing was Sick Kids in Love, which is hands down the most, like, important book to me that I read in 2020. But like, I’ve never ever, ever had the kind of experience that you had.
There was like, also just the author’s note the very beginning of it. I was like, I could literally quote this and like, claim I came up with it myself because it rings so true to me. Because the beginning of the author’s note is: “When I was Ana’s age, I didn’t know what it meant to be transgender,” which — that’s not entirely true, because I did have like a family friend who was trans and I knew very little about it, but I at least knew that like trans people existed.
I did not.
Anyway. Um, I know that’s definitely a unique experience.
Hopefully not anymore.
Yeah. “Non-binary was an even bigger mystery.” That’s for sure. I definitely didn’t know what non-binary was when I was Ana’s age. “Neither word was part of my small town vocabulary.” Yes, I was from a small town at that age. “What I knew was how different I felt from everyone else. Like Ana, I was a young figure skater and although I loved seeing all the glittery dresses that girl skaters were once required to wear at competitions, and even during regular practice at -” [stumbling] “and even during regular practice ice at some rinks.” Same. Loved looking at the outfits. Did not want to wear them. They made me uncomfortable to perform in myself. “I loved having long hair too, but didn’t like that it made people look at me and automatically think ‘girl.’” I don’t think I had the words for that, but I definitely knew I was just like, eh, whatever, and I was always very happy with like, my like, chin-length hair. Like, I started cutting my hair that short in like, middle school when I was into skating but wasn’t in synchro yet. And then I grew it out more for synchro because it was like, to help make it easier to keep my hair in a bun for competitions and stuff. But yeah, and then I went to college and immediately started cutting my hair really short again. And then I was like, screw it, and then I cut all my hair off. [laughing]
Meaning the other day Ron was like, I’ve made an impulsive decision. [both laughing] In the group chat for this podcast.
I just decided like, I don’t know if I’ll ever shave my head this short again, but I was like, You know what, why not? Um…
I think that that covers most — Oh, I wanted to say one more thing, which was, there’s little sprinkles of like, a really nice representation of like, model minority anxiety here. Like, especially about her mom’s insistence on proper English, even when they’re just texting each other. Like, it never says model minority. And it never says like, we’re doing this because we are afraid of racism, but like, I definitely got that. Like, we have to — we have to behave and be perfect, because. [long pause] And I liked that it wasn’t mentioned. Basically, this book had like a million things in it, and it feels so real, because there are so many things in it? [laugh]
Yeah. And also it like, even though it has everything it doesn’t try and like —
Do everything, yeah.
It’s not actually that ambitious of a book. As far as like, covering all of these topics. It’s more like, like AJ Sass just grabbed a chunk of a life and squished it into a book. And includes all of these threads that don’t go anywhere, because that happens in real life.
And like, all of these details and random things, and also I would like to clarify that the prose is beautiful?
Like, we have all of this great representation — Tamar is also Jewish, their families go to the same tem- to synagogue together. Um, like, there’s all of this great representation and queerness and stuff, but also it’s beautifully written??
Also like, just like a shout out to the like, prologue and epilogue parts which are Breathe in and breathe out.
Which is Ana’s grounding technique for competing.
Just like, amazing. Like, also just the ending of this book is fabulous, too. Like, the literal last page.
You liked the ending??
You liked the ending?
You don’t usually like endings.
I’m excited for you.
Yeah. That’s true.
It’s a good ending.
I thought you said, you don’t like the ending, because I couldn’t understand what you were saying. So my ears made something up. I was talking very fast. And I was like, What? I didn’t say that. [laugh]
Ron usually hates endings, which is — [inaudible]
I don’t hate endings, but endings usually disappoint me.
Endings quite often disappoint me, but I got to read two different books this week, where the endings were good.
Because I really liked the ending of this book. And I also really liked the ending of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour.
That’s, that is a good ending.
Um, also something that I loooved about this ending is that, um, Ana says, to Hayden’s family, keep calling me “he” until I figure something out. Like, don’t switch to she and then have to switch later. Like, just keep calling me “he” while I figure things out. Because like, like, I just — ugh. I like that — that it’s not like “she”s the default or something. It’s like literally, whatever you’re using right now is just a placeholder. So call me that.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it was. It was so wonderful. I — I — I want to, like, make a beautiful book display. I want to throw this at people. [laugh]
Okay, so now I just have to tell a story, because this book made me think about it.
It’s a gross story.
[laugh] Um, but Okay, so something throughout this book is that Ana’s nerves involve like, nausea, so Ana will chew ginger before competitions. And it just made me think about — one time when we were competing at I forget what the competition was called, but it’s a big like, New York state-wide competition thing that happens at Lake Placid. And it’s not just synchro at that competition. There’s like, an — a lot of competitions aren’t just synchro. So there’s like, synchro, pairs, like, free skate, everything. And so some of the people on our team, and on the other team that our club also had, would, like, be competing for multiple things at the competitions. So like, they’d compete with synchro. But then they’d also like, compete in another division on their own somewhere else. So the parents were watching — So on my team, there was the younger sister. And then the older sister was on the other team, the older team. And so the older team wasn’t like, competing right then. But my team was like, I think using our practice ice time or something. So we weren’t there for this. But the parents were, because they were watching the competition of like, the older sister, and the division she was competing in. So apparently, [laughing] something that happened, one of the girls she was competing against, came out on the ice, was skating her free program. And puked, like, and it was like bright red, because it was fruit punch.
I was like, I know, this is probably going to be because of some kind of drink, but also I’m like, Dear Jesus, she had a hemorrhage. [laugh]
Yeah. And everyone’s like, Oh, God, like — and she kept skating.
And she did this more than once throughout her program.
Like, I think like three times before she finally left the ice. And so then they had to, like, slow the entire competition down, [laugh] and like, clean off the ice and Zamboni all over again and everything because of this.
[pained] How do you get that out of the ice?
I don’t know cuz I wasn’t there. But my guess would be they like, scooped up what they could and then they probably had to like, chunk it out and then put new ice down because like, usually if you get like, a big divot in the ice, you pack some snow into it and then Zamboni over it.
How long did it take for people to realize that she didn’t just vomit blood? [laughing] I don’t know. Because you said a gross story —
I think it was like, not a blood color. Like it was red, but not like a blood color at all. [laughing]
The fact that she kept skating? What a queen.
I know!! I think about that all the time. I’m just like, what was riding on this for her? Because it wasn’t like a high enough level of competition where it was like, this is gonna make her break your, like, budding skating career!
I bet that there’s video of this.
I don’t know.
[laugh] Okay, so on that alarming note —
Would we like to conclude for this book?
Just another skating story that I thought about?
Well, you know, um, so just something that I think about a lot because I think of how embarrassing it must have been. When I was in like, basic eight, I think I was like, in my very last year of it at that point. One of the coaches was teaching one of the beginner classes how to do backwards crossovers, and was demonstrating and like, talking to them while she was demonstrating. And then just like, as a crazy, random, like, error. Her blade got caught in the middle of her other blade, and she snapped her leg. And she like, literally couldn’t skate for like, a very long time after that, because she broke her leg. And something I think about all the time is a how embarrassing it had to have been to do that in front of a class, when it’s like, one of the easiest things ever and like, I know that she had a full like, skating career when she was younger and was like a very accomplished skater. Second, how terrifying it must be to be learning backwards crossovers, and you’re like, nervous about it, but you’re like, Whatever, I’m just a low level, like, learning how to do things, and then your coach eats it. [laughing hard]
I really think I could have lived a happy life without knowing that story.
[laughing] I just like wonder how traumatized the kids in that class were. Like, your coach is like, you’re gonna start learning this easy move! And then she’s like, falling and then it’s like, class is over! She has to go to the emergency room!! [laughing hysterically]
[laughing] I don’t want to talk about this anymore. [laugh] Because I wanted to go skating tonight. [both laughing hard] And now I’m really scared.
I mean, you’re not going to be doing backwards crossovers, so you’re fine.
I love how you say that with such confidence because you know that I know nothing. [both laughing] Okay. So what are we recommending? What are we recommending? Because I actually don’t think I know anything to recommend.
Okay, so one book that I would recommend, it’s a graphic novel, Spinning by Tilly Walden.
Oh, yeah, that one’s — that one’s very similar in some ways. [laugh] We love Tilly Walden.
Yeah. It’s also about figure skating, and it’s also about playing the cello. which interestingly enough, is another thing that I have done.
And I — before Ron came out as non-binary to me, I was — I was like, Ron and Tilly Walden should like, get together. Because of the cello and the skating and the gayness. [both laughing] And that Tilly Walden is our age and has like five published books or something. I was like, ~ they’re a match made in heaven! And then two seconds later, Ron is texting me like, so I have a girlfriend now. And I’m like, Who? [both laughing]
Um, but yeah, another story about figure skating and queerness, and like —
Now Victoria and I have long conversations about America and like, football.
Another, it’s just another story about figure skating and being queer and like, evaluating what things you’re really into. And like, how to work it out as part of your life. Interestingly, basically, that story, Spinning, is like the opposite of my experience? Because like, the story shifts from having like, a lot of emphasis and love for figure skating, and then getting really into the cello. Whereas mine was kind of like super super into the cello, and then continued doing the cello and liking it. But getting more into figure skating. But then I had to quit figure skating, and then I just had cello still, so whatever. Um —
Cello was also an experience of like, I’m really glad I did pit orchestra because I loved doing pit orchestra in high school, and that reminded me like, Oh, I really like this instrument. I just didn’t like…the people I was working with very much. Um, anyway, I hope they don’t listen to this podcast someday.
It’s specifically just one person, but I won’t name names just to be nice. Um, another book that I’d recommend, not because it’s really related in other any way other than the fact it’s just like, trans and good, is Cemetery Boys. I’m pretty far into it, but not 100% done with it, but like, it’s so good. I very much enjoy that book. I’m very excited to read, um, what’s it called. Lost in the Never Woods after I finish Cemetery Boys. Um, and then another thing I would recommend, if you haven’t seen it, is I, Tonya, because I think — that movie really gets into -
Mmm! Oh, yes, yes, yes! I was going to recommend that, and I was like, Oh, no, what if it’s awful, according to Ron, I won’t say anything!
No, it’s so good!
I s- I saw it, yeah.
That movie really gets into like, kind of the — some of the stuff that was bugging Ana in this story about like, costs and uniforms and stuff like that. Also, it’s just like, a cool documentary. Definitely not for the same audience. But like if you’re listening to this — It’s a fake documentary. Yeah, I know.
I — I was just clarifying. It’s — not a real —
Yeah, it’s a mockumentary.
I thought it was a documentary when I was watching it, and then I was like, no, Harley Quinn isn’t this old?
[peals of laughter]
Okay, get this: people will actually know what’s going on now that Falcon and Winter Soldier is out — but it — Tanya is Harley Quinn and the boyfriend is Bucky Barnes. So it took me legitimately like, at least an hour before I realized that it was Sebastian Stan because the mustache threw me off so much.
[laughing] But yeah, I, Tonya’s definitely not for the target audience of Ana on the Edge.
But if you’re listening to this podcast, then there’s a good chance that you’re in more of the target audience for it.
I think my only recommendation is Full Disclosure by Cameron Garrett, which everyone knows that we love because it was our last book. It was not our last book. Was it our last book? We’ve done it on the podcast.
Our last book was Ever Cruel Kingdom.
You’re right. Um, but Full Disclosure also has some some stuff about closeting and queer community and repairing friendships, etc. But it’s YA and wonderful.
And if you’re interested in trans middle grade another book we’ve read on this podcast and would recommend is Zenobia July.
Oh, yes, yes, yes, that’s, so good, that’s so good.
It’s cool because it’s a very different kind of trans story, like this character very much already knows that she is trans and is fully living as —
She’s the Hayden in this story.
Yeah, she is fully, like, aware of who she is and how she describes herself. So — and it also has good family vibes.
Um…Don’t — take this with a grain of salt. But a book that we saw a lot of people love that neither of us have read yet is Rick by Alex Gino.
Yeah. I’ve heard really good things about that book.
Oh. From the award winning author of George. George was a comp for this book. I don’t know if it’s — it’s definitely queer. But I don’t know if it’s trans, but it is middle grade. And we’ve heard some excellent things about it.
There’s also a book that just came out or is coming out this month that I was interested in. And now I can’t remember what it’s called, that’s like, a trans non-binary middle grade that — so, something that I was really excited about is because I’m in a library program. I had one of my classmates reach out to me asking like, Hey, I know that you’re very queer and openly talk about how much you like queer books for kids. Um, do you have recommendations because I have a non-binary student who really wants to read like, stories about kids their age who are coming out and stuff like that.
And so I was like, I haven’t read Ana on the Edge yet. But that one. And then the other one I recommended — I was like, you could also recommend Zenobia July. It’s not about like a non-binary kid, but it might be a story they’d enjoy. And then another one that I recommended was the one that’s coming out soon, that I can’t remember the name of. And so when I was reading Ana on the Edge, I’m like, I’m so glad I recommended this, and I really hope that kid read it. And I hope that the library ordered the one that’s coming out this month and that it’s good.
Well, the beauty of having a platform is that you can just tweet about it when you do remember.
Oh, okay, I found the book.
Okay, last recommendation from Ron!
Okay, so this one obviously, it hasn’t even come out yet. So I don’t know if it will be amazing. Hopefully it is. It sounds good. So there’s a book coming out on April 20 called Too Bright To See by Kyle Lukoff. And I plan to read it. But who knows when, because there’s at least two books coming out this month that I already planned to read. So.
Okay, so I believe that that wraps it up, um…
Why do you have it marked as currently reading?
Because I accidentally clicked that just now.
I tried to click want to read, and…it made a mistake. This looks fantastic.
Yeah, it looks really good. I’m excited for it. I completely remembered wrong what the title looks like. And that’s why I couldn’t find it. Or, I mean what the cover looks like.
Basically, you need to read this book, whoever you are, it’s fantastic. We recommend it to everyone. Go forth. And now we will say goodbye and hand it off to Annaliese who has quite a job of trying to put this fractured recording together. [laugh] Alright, goodbye everyone.
Hello everyone. Thank you for listening to this week’s episode of Something Old, Something Debut, I hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to contact us on social media, our Instagram is @some_old_some_debut, and our Twitter is @debutold. The song that I would like to recommend to you guys this week is “Agape” by Tarou Umebayashi from the ice skating anime Yuri!!! On Ice. It’s honestly a beautiful piece of music and after watching the anime for the first time I couldn’t get the song out of my head for weeks. So, as usual, that song will be available on our music reccs playlist on Spotify, which you can find by going to our Twitter and clicking the link in our bio. Also transcripts are available. If you’d like to read a transcript of this or any episode, they’ll be available on Medium, which you can find by clicking the link in any of our social media bios. That’s it for this week. Stay safe and healthy. And we’ll see you in two weeks for a new episode. Bye.