St. Paul author’s book about transgender PI is focus of ‘Day of Visibility’ program – Twin Cities

St. Paulite Rob Jung’s “The Sower” will be the focus of a virtual program marking International Transgender Day of Visibility at 6:30 pm Thursday, March, 31, presented by Dakota County Library.

St. Paul author Rob Jung (Courtesy of robjungwriter.com/)

This annual event brings people together to inform them about what it means to be transgender and to drive home the importance of treating transgender people as equal members of society.

Although trans people are still too often marginalized, there is an explosion of books about their lives and struggles. For instance, Booklist.com offers 20 Must-Read Adult Books About Trans and Genderqueer authors, 2021. Check out the hashtag #TransBooks365.

In Jung’s involving crime story, the protagonist is Ronni Brilliant, a transgender former Marine MP introduced in Jung’s previous novel, “The Reaper.” Ronni and two women partners, owners of a private detective agency, are clients of a man who wants to find out who killed his grandmother.

At the heart of the story is a painting by Spanish artist Joan Miro that disappeared at the end of the Paris Exhibition. (That story is told in “The Reaper,” the first book in this series.)

Now, Ronni and her colleagues believe their client, Hamilton Blethen, might be responsible for murdering his grandmother years earlier. Blethen, who uses a wheelchair because of a serious accident, is asked to paint a forgery of the famous painting, but he inherits that very painting from a distant relative,

Blethen and his wife sell the painting for more than a million dollars to a Boston museum where a board member is hard-charging media mogul Magnolia Kanaranzi. She is running for the US Senate and will do anything to win the election.

Interesting thuggish characters populate the story, including a mysterious guy named Hawke who lives in Spain and does Magnolia’s dirty work (betraying and killing people) from a distance. A taste of how trans people are ridiculed are insults and sneers aimed at Ronni by the thugs.

Most intriguing is Ronni herself, who sometimes can’t control her tendency to fight back when she’s physically threatened, a leftover from her days as a Marine. She is a strong woman who can stand up to prejudice:

Ronni knew that people, like the sergeant behind the desk, drew assumptions from her appearance, and she knew that her job and life would be easier if she grew out of her hair, got rid of the piercings, and wore different clothes. But she had gone through the physical pain of multiple operations, and tremendous emotional challenges to become a woman, and she felt she’d earned the right to be the woman she wanted to be. She could deal with the wrong assumptions of other people. They would have to learn to deal with her.

Things get ugly when somebody finds out that Ronni is in Sturgis, SD, poking into Magnolia’s background, which doesn’t seem to exist. The bad guys move in on the detectives and lives are in danger.

Jung handles Ronni’s transition with sensitivity. He does n’t dwell on specifics of her gender reassignment surgeries or her de ella love life with a police officer.

Ellie Krug
Ellie Krug (elliekrug.com)

This might be because the author collaborated with Ellie Krug, an attorney who transitioned from male to female in 2009 and is vocal on issues involving equity and diversity. She is the recipient of numerous awards and recognition for her work, and is a sought-after speaker who has presented in North America more than a thousand times.

Jung, the pen name of Robert W. Junghans, grew up in the Wisconsin river town of Trempealeau, earned an undergraduate degree at Winona State University and was in legal practice for 50 years. He’s traveled in every continent except Antarctica and has worked as an inventor, gourmet chef, professional fisherman and storyteller.

“The Sower,” published in 2021, is timely now because transgender issues are in the news.

There’s the controversy surrounding University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, first transgender woman to win the NCAA Division I 500-yard freestyle, who some believe should not be allowed to compete against biological women.

And despite the outpouring of books about the trans experience, Freedom for All Americans (freedomforallamericans.org) reports that during the 2022 legislative session, dozens of states are considering legislation related to LGBTQ discrimination. Some 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed so far, most targeting trans athletes.

Transgender people are also the most vulnerable. HRC Foundation (hrc.org) reports that in 2020, 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people were shot or killed by other violent means, the majority Black and Latinex transgender women.

Jung’s books about a strong, confident transwoman PI might mitigate some of the myths about the trans community.

Back in the day, the late 1970s and early ’80s, gay and lesbian fiction was mostly confined to specialty stores such as, in Minneapolis, A Brother’s Touch and Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, the first lesbian/feminist bookstore in the United States.

Thanks to pioneering authors such as Minnesotan Ellen Hart’s long running Jane Lawless series, and RD Zimmerman’s Todd Mills mysteries, LGBTQ novels eventually went mainstream, with general interest bookstores giving equal shelf space to the genre.

Now it’s the turn of trans folks, and books like “The Sower.”

During Thursday’s program, Jung and Krug will discuss their collaboration, friendship, and how it turned into “The Sower.” The event is free but registration is required at: dakotacountylibrary.libcal.com/event/8811414.

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