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Just Ash

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Ashley "Ash" Bishop has always known who he is: a guy who loves soccer, has a crush on his friend Michelle, and is fascinated by the gruesome history of his hometown―Salem, Massachusetts. He's also always known that he's intersex, born with both male and female genitalia. But it's never felt like a big deal until his junior year of high school, when Ash gets his first period in front of the entire boys' soccer team. Now his friends and teachers see him differently, and his own mother thinks he should "try being a girl."

As tensions mount with his parents and Ash feels more and more like an outcast, he can't help feeling a deeper kinship with his ancestor Bridget Bishop, who was executed for witchcraft. She didn't conform to her community's expectations either; she was different, and her neighbors felt threatened by her. And she paid the ultimate price. Ash is haunted by her last recorded words: You will keep silent.

Ash realizes that he needs to find a way to stand up for who he really is, or the cost of his silence might destroy his life, too.

Praise for Just Ash:

"There are few books and even fewer authors who have endeavored to give readers a real glimpse into the life of an intersex teen, which is just one reason Santana's debut is so unique. . . . Santana―who is intersex herself―has written a smart and deeply introspective main character with whom readers will easily sympathize."―starred, Booklist

"A page-turning, harrowing, but ultimately empowering tour-de-force...a must read for all humans."―I. W. Gregorio, author of None of the Above and This is My Brain in Love

"A tough, powerful, necessary read, especially as Intersex Awareness Day approaches."―BuzzFeed

About the Author


When an intersex teen's life turns upside down, he fights against his abusive family for his right to autonomy.

Growing up in Salem, Massachusetts, a town famous for its history of executing witches, White 16-year-old Ash Bishop knows the violent cost of being different. He's witnessed the discrimination Michelle, his Black best friend, experiences as well as the estrangement between his parents and lesbian older sister. When Ash gets his period in the middle of soccer practice, his control is ripped away from him as his mom tries to force him to live as a girl. Due to his own upbringing and wider societal stigma, Ash begins his journey with shame and no awareness of the diversity of experiences of intersex people. Connecting with a community contributes significantly to his character growth. At times, his concept of gender essentializes behavior based on an opposing binary of how he believes boys and girls act. Until late in the book, Ash has few affirming advocates except Michelle, whose parents send her away to Christian conversion therapy camp because of her developing romantic relationship with Ash. Despite the high intensity of the abuse and violence, the story resolves on a positive note with support for both young people. Ultimately, this title offers frank education about intersex people and representation for an underrepresented group.

Harrowing but hopeful.--Kirkus Reviews

-- "Journal" (9/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)

Ash has always been curious about the brutal history of his hometown of Salem, MA, and the life of his relative and witch trial victim Bridget Bishop, but when he bleeds through his uniform -during soccer practice, the teen discovers that being persecuted for being different is not a thing of the past. Though Ash has always known he is intersex, suddenly his teachers, parents, doctors, and friends are questioning why he got a period and what it means for his identity. At school, Ash is kicked off the boys' soccer team and bullied by his classmates, while at home, Ash's father broods in drunken silence and his mother pressures him to present as a girl. When a trip to the hospital leads his parents to discuss surgery to alter his body without his consent, Ash knows he needs to seek out people who will accept him as he is. Ash is white and his supportive friend and crush, Michelle, is Black. Santana, who is intersex, provides a much-needed and authentic perspective. VERDICT An empowering, recommended story about Ash's fight to define himself on his own terms.--School Library Journal

-- "Journal" (10/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)

There are few books and even fewer authors who have endeavored to give readers a real glimpse into the life of an intersex teen, which is just one reason Santana's debut is so unique. For Ashley--'Ash'--having congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) with both male and female genitalia never seemed to matter. Then he gets his period on the soccer field in front of all his teammates, and the body he felt secure in becomes one everyone suddenly has an opinion about. He's kicked off the team and bullied by students as well as his own father until he's transferred to a private school, where he's forced by his mother to 'try being a girl' even though he knows he's male. Persecuted like those executed for witchcraft in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, Ash knows he must replace his silence with agency. Santana--who is intersex herself--has written a smart and deeply introspective main character with whom readers will easily sympathize. Analogizing Ash's mistreatment to the fear and ignorance of the Salem witch trials has a way of anthropomorphizing the city and its dark past, adding even more intrigue. The informative narrative is enriched by a brief author's note about the broad spectrum of genital and chromosomal conditions that will further educate readers.--starred, Booklist

-- "Journal" (10/15/2021 12:00:00 AM)

Ash Bishop is a guy, and he's always been a guy. He was also born intersex. This hasn't been a problem for Ash, until he starts his period on the soccer field and EVERYONE finds out. He's mortified and doesn't know what to do. His volatile and completely unappealing father can't stand to even look at him. His mother thinks he should just try being a girl. This leads Ash down a lonely and isolating path. He's kicked off the soccer team. He can't use a bathroom without a problem, and then he's beat up so badly that his mom decides to send him to private school-as a girl. Through it all, his best friend Michelle supports and loves him. In addition to this, Ash is fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials, especially his ancestor Bridget Bishop. When things become so bad that Ash can't be at home anymore, he runs away. He finds a safe-haven with his sister and her girlfriend, but can it last? Told by Ash in a distinct voice, and with engaging craft, readers won't be able to put down this book. The plot is well-crafted, and moves at an excellent pace. Interspersed throughout the book are a variety of characters who persecute Ash, but also, different advocates. This gives layers to the story, both in Ash's character development, but also in understanding his experience for the reader. The author does an excellent job of explaining the medical sides to being intersex, as well as the social and personal ones. This book is an excellent read for high school students who may be intersex themselves, or for those who want to learn more about intersex people. Reviewer Rating: 5 --Children's Literature

-- "Website" (6/25/2022 12:00:00 AM)

Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab (R)
Pub date: oct 05, 2021
224 pages
Format: Hardcover