Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: I Am J by Cris Beam

Little Brown and Company
Pages 352
Source: Publisher

“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.


  1. I can imagine that this would be an excellent read, and one that deals humanely and sensitively with a lot of hard issues. I hadn't heard of this one before, but now I am anxious to try it and see what I think. You wrote a really wonderful review of it, and it was much appreciated. Thanks!

  2. "Once in awhile you are given a book that is outside your comfort zone but completely blows you away."

    How true is that and how much do I love it when that happens! I have to be honest and say I hadn't heard of this book before, but it does sound very emotional and even inspirational.

    Thanks for the review, Mrs. Q.

  3. What a timely book! I think the people who go through sex change are very brave, so I think this book would be a great read.

  4. I am glad you liked it :) It's always great to read a book you would not have read otherwise, and then you end up liking it

  5. Wow, this sounds so amazing! I always love it when you read a book that you don't think you'll like, and you end up ADORING it! It happens to me all the time, too! :)

    Awesome review, Mrs. Q! I'm really glad you liked this one!

  6. I have only heard a bit about this book before now. It definitely sounds like it would be an intense read. So glad you were able to step out of your comfort zone to review this for us!

  7. I still don't know if I want to read this one, but thanks for sharing that great review!

  8. What a difficult situation to be in. This would be an interesting book to read. Definitely would take me out of my comfort zone too. I liked that there were realistic reactions on both sides. It's nice when the author doesn't demonize one side over the other.