Granby author chosen as Colorado Book Award finalist

“Martin Smith is the best kind of journalist: diligent in his research, fair, clear-eyed, sensitive, socially conscious and, not incidentally, a wonderful prose stylist …” wrote author Pam Houston when reviewing Going to Trinidad.
Martin J. Smith/Courtesy Photo

“The best stories are about people who find themselves at a crossroads. They face a critical choice, and the choice they make in that crucible moment tells us who they are.” Granby author Martin J. Smith begins in his nonfiction book “Going to Trinidad: A Doctor, a Colorado Town, and Stories from an Unlikely Gender Crossroads.” Smith brings the reader to the crossroads of the tiny town of Trinidad, where individuals traveled to seek gender affirmation surgery.

On April 4, “Going to Trinidad” received the honor of being selected as one of three finalists for the Colorado Book Awards in the history/biography category. On Friday, May 13, Smith will be at the independent bookstore Bookbar in Denver, for their Colorado Book Awards Finalist Reading. Smith’s book was also longlisted for the Reading the West book award, which for the past 32 years has been presented by the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association. “Going to Trinidad” was one of 35 books nominated in the nonfiction category.

The book chronicles a recent but forgotten part of history — the role the former Colorado mining town of Trinidad played in the development of gender affirmation surgery. From 1969 to 2010, Dr. Stanley Biber and his protege Dr. Marci Bowers performed many surgeries on transgender individuals who traveled to Trinidad from near and far to find acceptance and a doctor willing to treat them. When Biber first began this surgery practice, many transgender people faced discrimination, hostility and threats to their lives by society, but they were welcomed by Biber and his team.



Published in 2021, “Going to Trinidad” concentrates on the lives of two people who received gender affirmation surgery, plus includes excerpts from many other trans individuals who have experienced gender dysphoria — the sense they do not belong in the bodies they were born into.

In one excerpt from the book, Smith quotes writer Andrea Long Chu describing how it feels.



“Dysphoria feels like being unable to get warm, no matter how many layers you put on. It feels like hunger without appetite… it feels like grieving. If feels like having nothing to grieve,” writes Long Chu.

Before embarking on his research, being transgender was a foreign concept to Smith. Smith is cisgender (his gender identity matches his sex assigned at birth), but was drawn to Trinidad’s history since his cousin is trans.

“I began this journey ill-prepared and uneducated — a consequence of growing up in an era when most people believed gender was a binary thing,” Smith wrote in his book. “I’m still learning, and hope others who read the resulting book will learn with me.”

To understand gender identity, a concept he took for granted, Smith embarked on his research in 2017, traveling to Trinidad to interview those who were there during this pivotal time in transgender history.

In addition to “Going to Trinidad,” Smith has written five fiction novels and five nonfiction novels, which have been shortlisted for several awards. He has also worked as an award-winning journalist and magazine writer for many years, and was the former senior editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine. After moving to Granby, Smith founded the Grand County Community of Writers in 2017.

The Grand County Community of Writers is a workshop group that meets once a month on Sundays. Writers can submit fiction or nonfiction short stories, poetry and novel excerpts for workshop critique from fellow members. The community also hosts many literary events around the county, providing a resource for both published authors and aspiring writers to connect with each other.

The community’s next meeting is from 1-3 pm on Sunday, May 22, at the Granby Library or via Zoom. To become a part of the Grand County Community of Writers or attend a workshop, please contact their group coordinator John Marte at 970-531-4101 or johnmarte@comcast.net. You can also visit the community’s website at GCLB.org/writers to learn more about the group.

The radio station KFFR on 88.3 FM also airs “Stories from Local Writers,” which features the community. Each week through November 7, KFFR will air an original story or essay, followed by an interview with the author. Listeners can tune in at 4 pm on Sundays, and 7 am on Wednesdays. The episodes are also available online at KFFR.org.

“We’ve had a number of articles and books that have come out of this group. It’s really a busy, vibrant group these days, I’m really proud of it,” Smith said of the community. Smith added that people who are interested in the group but don’t have original writing are more than welcome to sit in.

For those interested in attending Smith’s reading on May 13, it will take place at 7 pm at Bookbar. Smith will give his reading of him alongside two other talented historical authors who are finalists for the Colorado Book Awards: Adrian Miller and Juliane Rubinstein.

“I know the other two finalists wrote incredible books,” Smith said. “I have no illusions about my chances of winning the award. But I’m thrilled to be in their company.”

This March, Smith was able to meet one of his fellow finalists personally. Rubinstein traveled to Grand County to give craft talks to the Grand County Community of Writers at River Run Event Center and Ouray Ranch.

On June 25, one winner will be chosen from the three history/biography finalists for the Colorado Book Award.

“The older I get, the more I appreciate these moments of appreciation that come along,” Smith said. “That means your books are connecting with people, and as a writer, that’s everything.”

Through “Going to Trinidad,” Smith hopes to connect with readers from all walks of life, revealing a part of Trinidad’s history that supported a marginalized community and gave hope to the many that journeyed there.

Please visit MartinJSmith.com to learn more about Smith’s work and future readings. Bookbar is located at 4280 Tennyson St. in Denver, and their website is BookBarDenver.com.

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