I Am J by Cris Beam
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 1, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge
Summary from Goodreads:
"Hola, Jeni."This was a fantastic, powerful book. I have to admit that I haven't read (in my recollection) too many books about transgender before, so a lot of this was a new experience for me. I appreciated that J didn't spend pages and pages spazzing out about who he was; instead, J has known from a very early age that he somehow got "mixed up" when he was born, and was accidentally put into a girl's body. It wasn't until he was a little older, though, that J realized there were other people in the world like him. As he nears his 18th birthday, J decides that he's tired of hiding and starts to take control of his life and who he really is.
J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.
J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.
An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.
Of course there are obstacles along the way--it's not easy for his parents to accept that J is not who they'd like him to be, and although homosexuals are slowly gaining acceptance in society, the same can not be said about transgendered people. While I imagine that J's experience--having to move out of his home, starting a new school--is on the extreme side, I can also believe that it happens more than it should. And I'm willing to bet that there are a lot more cases of transguys ending up on the street than finding welcoming homes and family and friends waiting with open arms.
As I've said, I haven't read a lot about transsexuals prior to this book, but I was able to easily feel for J and empathize with his plight. I consider myself pretty open-minded, and it's hard for me to get my head around the challenges a transgendered person faces on a daily basis. This isn't a choice that some people make, and there isn't anything inherently wrong with someone who is transgendered. It's just who that person is, and while it may be tough to accept if we're talking about your son or daughter, ultimately acceptance will lead to a much healthier life for all involved.
(Do I sound preachy? I apologize. I'm revamping our GLBTQ teen booklist at the library, and spent most of the day perusing novels, short stories, and nonfiction, much of which deals with perceptions and beliefs that I think are utter garbage. And of course I Am J is going on this list--this book is one of the reasons I volunteered to update the list in the first place.)
I Am J is the story of J's emotional journey to discover who he really is. It is truly an important book--not only will transgender teens know that they are not alone, but also to people who may have misconceptions about transsexualism, or for people who just don't know that much about it. Knowledge is the key to understanding (preachy again? Sorry.)
ARC recieved from publisher.
Enjoy your reading!