One set of criticism of Liar that I did not anticipate and therefore did nothing to address was that Liar depicts a trans character who is a liar, mentally unstable, and identifies with animals and that therefore Liar is transphobic. There is a long history of trans characters being depicted as psycho killers. A famous example is Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge.
This reading concludes that Micah is a trans character because early on in the book she pretends to be a boy. She does this because she is mistaken for a boy and thinks why not go with it? Within two days she’s found out and she only lasts that long because she stays out of most people’s way. After she’s found to be a girl—again because she’s not good at passing—she claims to be an hermaphrodite.
I intended both lies to be opportunist, plucked-from-the-air lies. As is her next lie that her father is an arms dealer. Micah gets more pleasure from people believing fantastical lies than from relatively easy lies.
Notice, of course, that I’m talking about what I intended. Readers are not privy to my intentions. They’re not mindreaders. They’re coming to my work with their own life experiences.
As someone who is not trans, and has known very few trans people in my life, and none of them particularly well, it did not cross my mind that anyone would read Micah as trans. My cisgendered privilege made me completely unable to see that reading of my novel until it was pointed out. I could see only what I intended.
– Justine Larbalestier, “Racism in the Books We Write”
I haven’t read Liar. I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy because of all the conversation around the cover a few years ago.