Little Brown and Company
“I Am J” is an emotional, poignant, well crafted coming-of-age read. High school struggles, life’s difficulties, and relationships are always tough when growing up. J is overwhelmed with life, on the cusp of graduating and dealing with self-acceptance. Having unsupportive parents makes everything even more complicated. J was born Jennifer, a female, daddy’s little girl and her parents only child. All her life she struggled with wanting to be like the boys, wanting to be a boy. For as long as she can remember she was always more involved with the boys. For years J has been trying to make his way in the world as a man. Hiding underneath oversized t-shirts, layers of clothing, and always afraid of the reactions of others. His Puerto Rican Mother and Jewish father are convinced that he will outgrow this, determined to ignore this behavior; his father blames his mother for coddling him too much. As a result his father is rarely home and his mother pressured him about school. His father would prefer if he would just live as a lesbian, that is something he could accept. J is seventeen and feels completely misunderstood -a kiss gone wrong with his best friend Melissa leaves him more alone than ever. His parents are focusing on his education, but J can’t go back to his old school. He can’t accept the stares, the torment and the isolation. Finally, he sets out to seek support and has decided to do this with or without his parents’ consent. He’ll soon be eighteen and able to receive testosterone injections. Fed up of constantly hiding, he transfers to a new school for transgender and gay students and begins seeing a therapist, a mandatory measure in order to be approved to receive the injections.
I Am J is not a novel I would have chosen for myself, and I am so happy that I was given a copy for review. Once in awhile you are given a book that is outside your comfort zone but completely blows you away. Beam’s story offers great insight into the life of a transgender teen. She puts the transgender teen into your family and gives realistic reactions from both sides. She doesn’t sugar coat a difficult subject. J is a very angry, very alone character, and trapped in a body he doesn’t believe should be his. Disgusted by what God gave him. His parents are unrelenting and won’t accept what’s right in front of them. What happened to the unconditional love a parent has for their child? Shouldn’t his parents accept the inevitable? As J struggled to do what is best for him, and continue to further his education many normal questions become stumbling blocks. How do you fill out a college application, when you are not sure what gender to fill out? What name to put on the application? How do you choose which bathroom to go into when you are in public? What do you do when a pretty girl is attracted to you? Young Adult literature has really begun to tackle some very interesting topics. I was relieved when J began to have supporters in his world, when he began to grow confident and stop hiding. This one comes highly recommended, a great emotional read.