When Others Define You

Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Thursday, May 25, 2017


The pair of audiobooks offered by AudiobookSYNC this fifth week features characters who have been required to conform to identities chosen for them. Many teens have felt this put-upon sense that conflicts with self-identity, although usually they are caught in less extreme circumstances than the young adults we meet here. Listening to these audios, then, can awaken both empathy for others and insight about.the difference between relying on social pressures to conform and recognizing one's own identity as essentially one's own responsibility.


FREAKLING, written by Lana Krumwiede and narrated by Nick Podehl for Brilliance Audio, is a sci-fi story about 12-year-old Taemon, exiled as a “dud” when he loses his society’s valued telekinetic abilities. Podehl’s performance incorporates the changes involved as Taemon’s efforts and discoveries bring him to develop his own sense of self and purpose.

BOY, performed live for this recording, is a play in L.A. Theatre Works’ science-based Relativity Series. Playwright Anna Ziegler bases the drama on a real-life event in which one twin boy is given a gender reassignment in infancy—a physician’s decision as a way of handling an injury. The full cast includes Sarah Drew, John Getz, Travis Johns, Amy Pietz, and Bobby Steggart, with the plot unfolding when the twins have just become young adults. This is not a story about transgender identity that is the result of self-awareness; instead, it is an examination of how one young person handles the fact that an inborn sense of self has been altered traumatically by adult family members and healthcare providers who have presumed to force the injured into a false identity.

These two audiobooks can lead to discussion as well as individual reflection. Both stories show the significance of trust—in self and in others—required in confronting life in the face of society’s judgment. Building and maintianing an identity of one's own is a significant goal for older teens. To achieve it, they must move past accepting what they are told about themselves to acting, showing, and knowing themselves beyond exterior pressures.


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