Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I Am J Review
I Am J by Cris Beam
Genre: Young Adult fiction
Publisher: Little Brown books for Young Readers
Source: Public Library
When J reached adolescence, he quit the swim team and began covering his body with extra clothes to hide the fact that he had been born a girl. At 17, J dreams of being accepted as a boy, binding his breasts and despising his monthly periods. His close friend, Melissa, a cutter, tries her best to understand and support him. His parents are confused, angry, and sad. He runs away from home and enrolls in a special school for gay and transgender teens, where he makes a helpful friend, a transgender girl. He also embarks on a shaky romance with Blue, a straight female artist who believes J is a boy and to whom he must eventually confess the truth. When he learns about testosterone and how it can help with his transformation, he is overjoyed, despite the obstacles he faces in getting the drug legally. Finally, J turns 18 and is able to begin getting his shots. He applies to and is accepted at college to study photography as a transgender young man, and holds out hope that one day his parents will accept him as well. Beam is the author of the informative adult book, Transparent: Love, Family and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers (Houghton, 2007). This novel is just as impressive. J is an especially vivid character, and the supporting characters are carefully drawn. Told in third person, the story is believable and effective due to insightful situations, realistic language, and convincing dialogue.
This is an important book that everyone should read. If you want to understand what it’s like to be a transgender teen, then find this book and share it with your family, friends and anyone you meet.
I love how J is trying to be “normal” and coming to terms with who he really is. His friend Melissa misunderstands what transgender means and he struggles to help her and his parents understand that it’s not in his head or that he is gay.
This is a powerful and important read and I highly recommend it as a great family discussion to help understand what it means to be born with the wrong body.