Photo Courtesy of Aaron Tredwell

Writer, television host and transgender rights activist Janet Mock came to the spotlight in a 2011 Marie Claire article in which she detailed the struggles and triumphs she faced as a transgender girl growing up in Hawaii, traveling to Bangkok for gender reassignment surgery. She is co-executive producer, writer and director on the Emmy-winning TV series, Pose, producer and interviewer for HBO’s The Trans List, author of New York Times best selling memoirs “Redefining Realness,” and Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me. As she told Rookie Mag, “[Reading] prompted me to get a library card and just sit among those stacks and read books by women who looked like my self-image. That was important to me, because [those women] lived the life that I saw myself living one day, as a black woman.”

Below are Janet Mock’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston
I first read this novel at 16 and felt centered in ways I’d never felt before as a reader. I’ve since returned to it whenever I feel lost and am given affirmation to journey for answers, like Hurston’s protagonist Janie in the muck.
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The Age of Innocence

Edith Wharton
Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel fulfilled me deeply as a lover of period piece romances. Her characters showed me early on that love is as much a choice as it is a feeling, and the pull of family, society and tradition can be overbearing.
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Alex Gino
This small novel may have been written for young readers but we can all learn and feel as we read about a trans girl yearning to take center stage as Charlotte in her class’ production of “Charlotte’s Web.”
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Waiting to Exhale

Terry McMillan
This was the first book to give me a thrill, the first to make me feel as if I was doing more than merely eavesdropping on grown folks’ business — I was one of the girls. At 12, I loved this novel so much that I never returned it to the library.
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This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa
When I first read this book, it was out of print. I felt I’d found a treasure when I uncovered a tattered copy online. It’s unapologetically feminist, queer, third-world, woke and woman. I am so glad it’s back in print for a new generation craving this kind of centering and elevated consciousness.
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Toni Morrison
The character Sula was the first protagonist who made me feel okay with my own non-conformity, with the gray areas, with coloring outside the lines as a multiracial trans kid. Plus, Morrison’s writing about womanhood, convention and the fierce attachment of female friendship is astounding.
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Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex

edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith
This book helped me give words, voice and deeper analysis to my activism, reminding me that we must be intersectional in our movement work. We will be judged not by those who attain the seemingly unattainable, but by how we care for the poor, the incarcerated, the targeted and the often forgotten. That lesson has never left me.
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Sister Outsider

Audre Lorde
I read and write to find answers and Lorde never fails to give me the wisdom I need. I am not a religious person, but reading this collection always leaves me stronger, nurtured and praising the Lorde.
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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou
This was the first autobiography that meant everything to me as a young survivor struggling to find voice and meaning through the overbearing darkness. Angelou did what great writers of memoir do; she let me know that I was not alone because someone else had been there and made it out to tell the truth.
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The Color Purple

Alice Walker
Celie’s audacity to give her journey words through prayer instilled in me an audacity to say that yes, I am deserving of testimony and deserve to be heard.
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