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I Am J

by Cris Beam

Published by Little, Brown, 2011
326 pages
ISBN: trade 978𢠥16-053617

Age 13 and older

J is a transgender teen, struggling to come out to those around him. While strangers often recognize him for the boy he is, some respond with name-calling: 揻aggot. His best friend, Melissa, thinks he抯 a lesbian, and his parents don抰 know what to make of J, although his father affirms he抯 still 揇addy抯 little girl. Certain his parents will not be able to accept that he isn抰 a girl at all, J leaves home, eventually moving in with Melissa and her mother. When J finally tells the truth to his own mother, her response is to pull away. She sees J periodically, but explains that his dad doesn抰 want to see J at all (a lie that later leaves J feeling profoundly hurt and angry). Chris Beam抯 third-person narrative is especially effective in exploring J抯 feeling of being so disconnected from his physical body梬hich has always contradicted who J knew himself to be梕specially when J reached puberty and began developing breasts. Beam also explores J抯 ongoing struggle to assert his identity to people who抳e known him all along. Many of them assume J has only recently decided to become a boy. He must repeatedly insist that this is who he has always been. And with trust a fragile thing, J also struggles what to reveal as he navigates a romantic relationship with a girl named Blue. But by novel抯 end, with the help of friends and the wider transgender community, J begins the process of transforming his body with testosterone injections in this thought-provoking story with complex and very human characters.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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