Just Ash (Hardcover)
Author: Sol Santana
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab (2021)
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.
"A page-turning, harrowing, but ultimately empowering tour-de-force...a must read for all humans."
–I. W. Gregorio
"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."
"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."
–School Library Journal