Book review: Adam, by Ariel Schrag

Schrag AdamSchrag, Ariel. Adam. Mariner/Houghton. 2014. $13.95. 302p. PB. 978-0-544-14293-0.

In her controversial first novel, queer community veteran Ariel Schrag explores a particular time (the summer of 2006) and a particular place (Brooklyn’s community of queer women and trans men) through the eyes of a naïve interloper.

At 17, Adam doesn’t want to spend another summer in his Bay Area hometown and asks his parents if he can go live with his older sister Casey in her Bushwick sublet. Casey has just discovered the heady subculture of New York City queer activism and grudgingly takes Adam with her to marriage equality marches, the Cock, L Word viewing parties, and other staples of community bonding. Everyone assumes that Adam, by virtue of his youthful appearance and current company, is a trans guy. When he finds out that a girl he likes is typically only attracted to other girls, he allows her to make that same assumption. Adam’s journey through “being trans,” despite his actual lived experience, shows a whole different side to contemporary trans politics and identities.

Adam has drawn plenty of ire from queer and trans people, both on and off the Internet, and it has also garnered a great deal of praise. Searching GoodReads reviews will yield a wealth of information about all sides of the arguments. Some, including the publisher of Topside Press, have argued that the novel is transphobic, hurtful, and not entertaining. I read it as hilariously accurate, thought-provoking satire, that echoed upsetting aspects of trans communities that I have witnessed, and explored questions around identities and disclosure that I had never considered.

A worthy caveat, however, is that I lived on the same block as Schrag’s characters, the same summer the novel took place, and recognize many of the places and characters. It felt painfully accurate but does not (nor is it intended to) reflect all trans experiences.

This title is recommended for any collection that values a diverse array of LGBTQ literature.

Kyle Lukoff, Librarian
Corlears School (New York)

[Ed. note: The reviewer’s interviewer with Ariel Schrag is available here:

See also notes in Goodreads on this title:


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