Lily & Dunkin

Gephart, D. (2016). Lily and Dunkin. New York, NY: Delacorte Press

Donna Gephart unfolds the stories of Timothy McGrother, who is a transgender girl who'd prefer to be called Lily, and Norbert Dorfman, a boy who's recently moved from New Jersey to Florida.  When Tim wears his mother's beautiful red dress and Norbert, who Tim later called Dunkin because he's carrying a beautiful Dunkin Donuts bag, see her, a connection is made.  Tim's mother and sister support him in his search to become comfortable with his identity as Lily, but Mr. McGrother doesn't follow suit until he meets with a doctor who tells him that Lily's life is fragile. And that he should choose between having a dead son and a daughter who's alive. Things start to slowly turn around for Lily at home, but Tim still suffers from bullying at school.  Dunkin, who doesn't know about Lily until the second half of the book, has started to hang out with the bullies, who are also his basketball teammates.  Dunkin is trying to fit in and find his groove in a new school despite having to take medication due to his mental illness.  He feels incredibly uncomfortable having to choose between the Neanderthals, as Lily calls them, and hanging out with Tim and his friends.  Both Lily and Dunkin endure some battles to make sense of their realities, but in the end they accept their respective situations, trust each other with their truths, and both seem to have a positive outlook on life despite their hardships.

Gephart intertwines Lily and Dunkin's stories very similar to the format of Jennifer Niven's All The Bright Places, each protagonist takes turn relating their own situations, and at times, deliver their rendition of the same event. The care and craft in portraying the depression and anguish teens in these situations live through is palpable. The serious themes in this novel include individuality, family dynamic, suicide and its effects on surviving family members, coping with mental illness (schizophrenia and being bipolar), bullying, violence in the family, shaming, and the struggles that loved ones endure trying to become an effective support system in all these situations.  Both of these characters are in middle school, and I would strongly recommend this selection be in the library with resources readily available should there be a challenge in more conservative communities. 

Random House, which is the parent publishing company has resources and counselor reference guides that accompany this book and serve as support for teachers and librarians.

An idea for conducting a comparison literary and film analysis with this book in high school, I would recommend watching The Danish Girl directed by Tom Hooper, whose protagonist is also a transgender male who takes the name of Lily. 

For parents, the following selections provide insight to creating a supportive environment for children and teens and transgenderism. The Transgender Child was published in 2008 and The Transgender Teen was published in 2016.

Requirement: Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Book cover images from