He that troubleth his owne house, shall inherite the wind:
and the foole shall be servant to the wise of heart.
Hans G. Schantz's The Wise of Heart is a bold foray into one of the most controversial topics in contemporary America: transgenderism. It is an inherently polemical book, about an inherently polemical topic. But don't let that make you think this story is preachy or boring or unsophisticated; Schantz gives us a gripping courtroom drama with well-written characters that kept me engaged throughout.
One of the book's greatest strengths is Schantz' portrayal of the various personalities involved. Like the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, the fictional trial of a high school biology teacher charged with violating a state law requiring unconditional affirmation of gender identity is a conspiracy of antagonists. Each party, despite their inherently conflicting goals, agrees to bring a case to court because they think they'll get what they want.
Americans believe in the law, we believe that the law can solve our problems, and I suspect this is part of why courtroom dramas are so popular in our culture. It is our version of trial by combat, and we have faith that it will work out, somehow.
As events unfold during the trial in a way that stymies anyone's best attempts at narrative control, alliances shift, compromises are offered, and hearts are changed. I wanted to know what happened next, even though I was familiar enough with the historical trial to know the gist.
What was most astonishing to me was everytime I thought some legal stratagem of the defense was simply too ridiculous, such as the defense attorney insisting that he needed to have an honorary title of equal weight to the prosecutor so the jury would not be unduly swayed, that thing actually happened in Tennessee in 1925. If the Scopes Trial were not so well known, it would seem like Schantz was inventing unbelievable events to foster his narrative. The real trial was far more unbelievable than anything you could invent.
When it comes to the two sides, I was impressed by Schantz' version of gender affirmation theory, put into the mouth of the prosecuting attorney just like William Jennings Bryan's defense of biblical interpretation on the witness stand. Like a medieval disputation, Schantz gave the side he clearly does not agree with the chance to make its best argument.
That Schantz' rhetorical opponents are not interested in returning the favor was vividly illustrated by Kickstarter shutting down the crowdfunding campaign originally intended to publish this book. Schantz was able to find an alternative platform, but way in which real life rhymes with fiction here is eerie.
This was an great book, both thought-provoking and interesting to read. The illustrations are top-notch as well. I'm happy to recommend it.
I was given a review copy of The Wise of Heart by the author.
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