The Literary Life of Elliot Page

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Alex Luppens-Dale


Alex Luppens-Dale won the “Enthusiastic Reader Award” all four years of high school. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. Her favorite genres are memoir, witches, and anything with cults. She lives in New Jersey. You can keep up with Alex's latest work at her website.

Pageboy, Elliot Page’s long-awaited memoir, gives a fragmented but close-up perspective of Page’s life and experiences growing up as someone who has always known that he was a boy even when everything in society told him otherwise. We follow him from childhood through close to the present day and he is unflinching in the detail he uses to describe the dysphoria he lived through every day. 

I have enjoyed Page’s acting work through the years but was really only peripherally aware of him as a person. I enjoyed learning about his fascination with sustainability, his deep love for his dog, and how he has come to understand his place in a world that seemed to value the wrong things about him. 

Page also identifies as a reader, mostly of nonfiction and prefaces his own memoir with the statement: “I know books have helped me, saved me even, so perhaps this can help someone feel less alone, seen, no matter who they are or what journey they are on.” I have collected some of the books Page mentioned, as well as some of his most interesting bookish roles. These books round out the portrait of someone who is a passionate, lifelong learner and deeply concerned about the world around him. 


Book cover of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Page refers to Vonnegut as “the first writer [he] ever really liked.” Mother Night is a novel focusing on an imprisoned man who was both a Nazi propagandist and a spy for the United States military. It explores themes of guilt and innocence and whether the truth is ever simply black or white.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

This lyric essay was very important to Page through the lens of a relationship he was in. Bluets is a lyric essay exploring suffering and love, reflected in the color blue. The book is comprised of many reflections on blue across many areas, including as symbol, as mood, and its place in music and literature.

Bellies by Nicola Dinan

Page called out this book on his Instagram a few months ago. It follows two university students who meet at a drag night and begin a relationship. Tom and Ming balance each other out are beginning to build a life together after university when Ming announces her plan to transition. The novel follows the shifts in their relationship as well as in their friend group in the wake of Ming’s announcement.

Book Cover of What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo

What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma by Stephanie Foo

Stephanie Foo was outwardly extremely successful as a radio producer for This American Life, but would regularly have panic attacks and inexplicably sob at her desk. This memoir follows her diagnosis with complex PTSD and her relationship with the parents who abused, and then abandoned her. It also maps her journey toward healing and features interviews with scientists and psychologists about how trauma can be inherited.

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

Taking from anthropology, anatomy, primatology and other fields of science, Sex at Dawn posits how natural monogamy really is for humans. Where does desire come from and why must humans act upon it? The authors look at the ancient roots of human sexuality and what a hopeful and non-monogamous future might look like.

Books About Queer and Trans Identities

“There are an infinite number of ways to be queer and trans, and my story speaks to only one,” writes Page. He recommended a few other books that have informed the way he sees the world.

The Ties that Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences by Sarah Schulman

This book gives a name to the concept of “familial homophobia” and how those who have come out to their family members find themself in the position of having to “heal” their family’s bigotry. Schulman draws from her own experience as well as a wide body of research. The book also shows how these family dynamics can replicate in other areas of life.

Cover of Miss Major Speaks

Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary by Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Toshio Meronek

This short book tells the story of Miss Major’s life and survival as a transgender elder and activist. Active in the drag ball scene of the late 1960s, she was present at the Stonewall Riots and also helped found one of America’s first needle exchange clinics. She writes of her life experiences as well as her skepticism about “representation” and the politics of “self-care.”

The Transgender Issue: Trans Justice is Justice for All by Shon Faye

Faye gives an overview of systemic transphobia and argues that trans rights are necessary to any social justice struggle. She explores how issues of trans rights intersect with housing, healthcare, sex work, the prison system, and much more. Faye argues that when we fight for a better world for trans people, all people benefit.

Books About Sustainability

Page once took time off from acting to learn about sustainability in a place called Lost Valley, “to know what it meant for humans to exist in sync with our natural surroundings.” These are a few books that explore that topic in-depth and explain how our current systems are just not sustainable.

Book cover of This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Page mentions Naomi Klein more than once in Pageboy, though I am only guessing that he has read this particular book. In This Changes Everything, Klein writes about how we must radically change ourselves or accept that our physical world will change radically. Klein also explains why the changing climate and capitalism are inextricably — and disastrously — connected.

Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy

Roy examines the dark side of democracy and capitalism in India. It has led to massive inequality, poisoned rivers, and deforestation. In a society where the rich keep getting richer, where farmers end their lives to avoid crushing debts, where can one even begin to find hope?

There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities by Ingrid R. G. Waldron

Waldron explores the health impacts of environmental racism on Indigenous and Black communities and how these groups are fighting back. The book uses Page’s home province of Nova Scotia as a case study, which is all the more reason why the subject matter is personal for him. Page was the director of a documentary based on There’s Something in the Water.

Bookish Roles

Page’s career has spanned decades and therefore this list could be twice as long as it is. I am purposely leaving out Page’s already well-known bookish roles of Kitty Pryde and Viktor Hargreaves to focus on some roles that you may not have known were based on books.

Pit Pony by Joyce Barkhouse

Page’s first professional acting role was as Maggie MacLean, the younger sister of Willie MacLean who, at age 11, must go work in the local coal mine to help to support his family. Willie dreams of riding horses and hates the lonely mine work. He finds solace in befriending a pit pony, a horse used to pull carts in the mines.

Book cover of Ghost Cat by Beverly Butler

Ghost Cat by Beverly Butler

In another early role for Page, Ghost Cat is a young adult story about a young girl who visits relatives and is haunted by, you guessed it, a ghost cat. Annabel must solve the mystery of the ghost cat and how her grandparents may be involved. Page points out in his memoir that he, in fact, starred in two “ghost” films in the same year (the second was the deeply turn-of-the-millenium-feeling I Downloaded a Ghost, which is not based on a book).

The Tracey Fragments by Maureen Medved

Page played the title role in this story of a teenager searching for her lost brother. The story is told in fragments and the reader begins to learn about Tracey’s chaotic and abusive home life, her relationship with her psychologist, and just how she came to be on a bus wearing a tattered shower curtain. Tracey spends much of the novel navigating frustration and rage and searching for a safe place. 

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

Whip It was based on this novel and Page played a teenager named Bliss Cavendar who rebels against her pageant-obsessed mother by lying about her age and joining a roller derby team. Bliss learns how to be merciless through the sport and begins to figure out how to stand up for herself in her own life. Page wrote about his experiences learning roller derby for the film.

Book cover of Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Page also produced the film adaptation of this near-future novel about a pair of teenage sisters who must survive a content-wide power outage during which their father dies. In their remote forest home, the girls try to survive using skills their father taught them as the networked society around them crumbles. The girls must figure out what their relationship to the land and to each other is in this changed world.

One can learn a lot about people by the books they choose to talk about and building this list brought Page from a person I enjoyed in theory to someone I really enjoyed getting to know. A person could do much worse than building a reading list off of his recommendations. If you’re interested in more bookish lives of actors and other celebrities, you can find more here.