Were I Not A Girl: The Inspiring and True Story of Dr. James Barry

Random/Schwartz & Wade. Oct. 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984849052.
K-Gr 4–This accessible picture book biography spotlights a lesser-known part of LGBTQ+ history. Dr. James Barry, a white transgender man, accomplished great feats. He was Inspector General of Hospitals for the British Army, performed the first documented Cesarean section in which both the mother and baby survived, and advocated for better health-care conditions for disadvantaged patients. Robinson, who is also a therapist, presents the facts in a conversational tone. Readers are addressed directly; the text alerts them to the gaps in what is known about Barry’s life. The process of Barry’s transitioning is written in a straightforward manner, switching from “she” to “he” pronouns. The majority of the narrative focuses on his remarkable achievements as a surgeon. Berke’s pencil and watercolor illustrations feel appropriately historic, with expertly sketched British architecture and ornately framed portraits of Barry. The artwork uses a style reminiscent of Barbara McClintock’s picture book biographies. Barry is portrayed as red-haired and fashionable. Back matter expands on the details of Barry’s personal and professional life and includes notes about transitioning and people who identify as transgender (though this word is not used within the narrative).
VERDICT Recommended for biography collections, especially those looking to include more books that cover LGBTQ+ history.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing