Transgender author Alex Myers
will give a free, public talk at Shore on November 10 about his historical novel, Revolutionary
. Set in 1782 during the Revolutionary War, Revolutionary
tells the true story of a young woman who disguised herself as a man to join the Continental Army and fight for both her country's and her own independence.
Myers was the first transgender student in Phillips Exeter Academy's history, and subsequently earned degrees at Harvard, Brown, and Vermont College of Fine Arts. His debut novel is an inspiring, one-of-a-kind journey through a nation torn apart by war. Myers, who himself is a descendant of the historical Deborah Sampson in the book, takes full advantage of this real-life heroine’s unique voice to celebrate struggles for freedom, large and small.
According to the author, he’s happy to use his experience to educate people on transgender issues. However, he insists, "I’m not a political activist. I think Deborah’s story is a great way to illustrate some of the more subtle issues."
Born and raised in Paris, Maine, Myers was brought up as a girl (Alice) and left Maine to attend Exeter. There he came out as transgender, returning his senior year as a man after attending for three years as a woman. After Exeter, Myers studied Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, where he was the first openly transgender student and worked to change the University’s nondiscrimination clause to include gender identity. He now lives in New Hampshire and teaches English in secondary schools.
Myers' appearance at Shore is sponsored by the Parents Association's Community Connections group. According to the group's Chair, Lucy Hamilton, "Alex Myers is a great resource for all adults who care about children. He knows independent schools: his experience as a student and as a teacher is relevant to all of us. Community Connections is thrilled to welcome him to our school and to extend this opportunity to the entire North Shore."
In Revolutionary, Myers tells a richly imagined and meticulously researched tale of Deborah Sampson's real historical struggle against a rigid colonial society, and how that struggle shaped her journey through a country’s violent birth. After years as an indentured servant in a sleepy Massachusetts town, Deborah decides to finally make her escape. She cuts her hair, binds her chest, and, stealing clothes from a neighbor, rechristens herself Robert Shurtliff. It’s a dangerous deception, and becomes more so when she enlists as a man in the Continental Army.
"Shore is a community of learners," says Community Connections' Hamilton, "and that includes parents, too. As much as we want our children to have a mindset of openness and growth, we parents want to learn and grow, as well. Our kids live in a world that is distinctly different from the world we grew up in, and we adults want a greater awareness of aspects of diversity that impact our children and our communities."
Myers' book, one reviewer said, is "a novel of the American Revolution by a writer who is himself a true American revolutionary." According to another reader, "This beautifully written account is a reminder that gender identity and the struggle for equal rights has always been with us. Perhaps now, in our time, we can set aside our biases and not simply ask how Deborah Sampson did what she did, but understand why." And in a Boston Globe review, James Sullivan writes, "Myers is using the historical tale of a distant ancestor, the Revolutionary War figure Deborah Sampson, as a literary parallel to his own determination to live as a man."
Myers speaks in the Trustey Family Theatre on Thursday, November 10, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.