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Hachette Book Group
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I Am J Kindle Edition
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J’s story features many aspects of “typical” young adult novels—the search for identity, the need for a sense of belonging, emerging values that conflict with those of parents, romance, the confusion of adolescent sexuality, the pressures of high school. J, however, also copes with the challenges of a gender identity that doesn’t match his physical body. Further frustrating matters, J has few resources he can use to educate himself about his predicament—until he runs away from home and encounters a marginalized community of others who, like him, are gender variant. Identifying the resources that can help him leads J to confront new issues—accepting and understanding those resources, finding a way to make them work for him, and developing the confidence to share his gender identity with those he loves.
Although some of the plot developments feel as though they’ve been lifted directly from some standardized paradigm of the challenges faced by most trans* youth (running away from home, confusion over sexual orientation, asserting control over one’s physical development, securing the resources for hormone therapy, finding a community, enduring bullying), Beam has woven these elements into a credible story about a protagonist who is complex, dynamic, and likeable. J is by no means perfect, but it is nearly impossible not to root for his success.
I am J is a unique, ultra-modern coming-of-age novel whose highlights include a dynamic protagonist set against a vivid, real world with real-world issues.
J’s struggle truly became a riveting part of this novel, and the way his struggle to become the gender he desired became a mission that readers came to cheer for when J succeeded and sighed when he had to take a step back. Clearly, the FTM (female-to-male) transition process was well researched, and J’s hopes for his world to accept him as a boy come to represent all the struggles people face for others to accept them. The reader gets to see each stage: the unsure pre-transition J who hides his body with layers of shirts, the J who is sure of his gender and physically projects that to the world (and passes sometimes), and the J who begins the physical alterations of the transition. It gives a nearly complete curve and leaves the reader a bit more informed about the fascinating life. But, luckily, the book didn’t singularly define J by being a transgender person: he’s resilient, loyal, open to learn, and has a big heart. Also, he’s human. His relationships aren’t defined by being good or bad, but go through patches of both, namely with his mother, Melissa, and the friends he meets along the way.
Besides the issues it brings up, J’s world is also wonderfully painted simply in terms of the techniques the author uses. J is a multi-racial child, and many of his friends are as he is, so the diversity of New York is explored. As well, J’s rougher neighborhood and life was an interesting choice, and the reader not only got to learn about transgender life but also about a less read area of New York. The dialogue is top notch and completely realistic. There’s swearing, idioms, and just the syntax of the sentences make it so each line could seriously be said by real people, really pushing the story’s credibility. The writing itself was very frank, and the story didn’t leave out bits and pieces because someone might feel uncomfortable. It leaves the reader satisfied by the end, and a bit more empathetic toward the transgender people community.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a great piece of fiction including a well-made protagonist and a setting that isn’t as heavily explored, and/or want to dabble into the still-on-the-rare-side LGBTQ fiction, I Am J is a great choice.
There are many autobiographical (non-fiction) books or memoirs that report one individual's experience. This fictional account of a 17 year old FtM transsexual delves deep into this young man's psyche as he struggles with his own awareness, identity, and relationships. Author Cris Beam has drawn upon her years of experience in the transgender community to present a character - J - who represents feelings and experiences of many gender variant teens of both assigned genders.
While classmates and family struggle to understand his attitude and behaviors, J is struggling with his awareness of himself. Declaring early in his senior year of high school that he is male, not female, is not a spur of the moment decision; he has known for some time. As with most teens, he is trying to discover who he is as a person and who he will be as an adult. Compounded with that is his anguish over his relationships with his parents and friends; he is trying to express himself while in constant fear of rejection by those he loves.
No one who is not transgender can truly understand the emotional stress of accepting oneself and the fear of sharing that knowledge with loved ones. In "I Am J" author Cris Beam has portrayed this superbly.
I am J is a coming out tale that is more complicated then just a coming out tale. The main storyline deals with J's coming out, how his family reacts and his first few steps toward transition. The cast of characters have their own issues, his best friend Melissa is a cutter. His parent's marriage is in trouble and they are both flawed individuals, his new trans friend Chanelle has her own very restricted view of gender and the roles boys and girls must play. This all adds up to a much deeper and more realistic novel, one that is about a trans-individual who is coming out, but doesn't read like a one dimensional coming out story. Very good book and a very easy read.
Most recent customer reviews
As a teacher, I'd say a more appropriate age range is 7th grade and up.
I love J's voice and the perspective of a Latina growing up as...Read more