TW for discussion of transphobia.
April Daniels’ Dreadnought tells the story of Danielle, a transgender girl who happens to be present when the superhero and Legion-member Dreadnought is killed by the supervillain Utopia. Upon his death, the Dreadnought mantle passes to Dani, giving her superpowers but also physically transitioning her to female. Dani’s dreams have come true, but there’s still her friends and family to deal with and when she finally comes out to them, they fail to support her.
Worse still, when the Legion invites her for a meet-and-greet, she is outed without her persmission and Legion member Graywytch proves herself to be extremely transphobic. Dani leaves, determined to figure out things for herself, and strikes up a friendship with Calamity, a western-styled hero, not super, but with excellent sleuthing and parkour skills. With Calamity’s support, Dani learns how to navigate both superhero-hood and accepting herself for who she is.
Here’s the thing that grabbed me the hardest, reading this book in this time and space. I probably won’t always recognize transphobia on my own but I believe my transgendered friends when they tell me something or someone is transphobic. I believe them when they tell me a certain famous magic book author is being transphobic. Heck, I bought this book to support a transgender author while that whole fiasco was happening. But. BUT. This book made everything clear. There’s a scene in which Graywytch goes on a rant about why she despises Dani and everything she is. The story is told from Dani’s perspective, so we see Dani’s exhaustion with hearing these tired, damaging stereotypes over and over again. These stereotypes? Claiming that transgendered women will use their access to female spaces to sexually assault cis women. Claiming that she (Graywytch) will never stop trying to protect her sisters, and in this instance “sisters” is meant in a feminist sense. Which is exactly what the transphobic author is tweeting. My eyes almost popped out of my head. She could have pulled those tweets straight from Graywytch’s dialogue. And here’s the thing, and why Dreadnought is an important book for cis folks to read, because if you can’t recognize the stereotype for the parroted drivel of hate that it is, who the person who parrots that drivel can hide just how bad what they are doing is.
We need to read books that explore identities outside of our own precisely because they are outside of our own. The powerful awakening that Dreadnought gave me is a fine example of how books can broaden our worldview. Stories are a unique means to live as another person, if only for a time, and that’s a superpower of its own. Obviously, I highly recommend this book, please read it. 5/5 stars.