I AM J by Cris Beam
Kirkus Star


Age Range: 14 & up
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Finally, a book about a transgender teen that gives its central character a life in which gender and transition matter but do not define his existence! J lives with his Puerto Rican mother and Jewish father in Manhattan's working-class Washington Heights neighborhood but plans to go to college to study photography. He tries not to think about gender and covers his body in thick layers of clothing, but he still tenses up when his mother calls him “m'ija” or classmates call him “dyke.” After a heated argument with his best friend, Melissa, and a nearly physical fight at school, J starts cutting class. A Google search leads him to the idea of taking testosterone, and J leaves home, certain that his parents will not accept his choices. In his new haunts, including a seedy hotel, a downtown Starbucks, a trans support group and a high school for LGBT students, J encounters a vibrant and diverse cast of characters. Responses to J's transition vary from affirming (his trans poet classmate Chanelle's support) to heartbreaking (his parents' resistance) to maddening (Melissa's attempt to make art with J as her “muse”). Readers will likely come away agreeing with J: “Being trans wasn't special, and yet it was. It was just good and bad and interesting and fucked-up and very human, like anything else.” (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-05361-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2011


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