I AM JAZZ by Jessica Herthel


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An autobiographical picture book describes trans-youth activist Jazz Jennings’ story of embracing and asserting her transgender identity.

Both the title and the opening text proclaims, “I am Jazz!” The book goes on to detail Jazz’s various interests and tastes, which follow traditionally feminine gender norms. But as Jazz goes on to explain, she has “a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way!” Although the realistic watercolor illustrations consistently display only happy faces in these beginning pages, the text recounts her family’s struggle to understand her early-childhood assertion of femininity: “At first my family was confused. They’d always thought of me as a boy.” Jazz recalls her pain when compelled to wear “boy clothes” in public. “Pretending I was a boy felt like telling a lie.” Her parents’ efforts to understand prompt them to meet with a doctor who introduces the word “transgender,” which enables the family’s powerful affirmation: “We understand now. Be who you are. We love you no matter what.” The story balances this acceptance with honest acknowledgement of others’ ongoing confusion and intermittent cruelty, and it briefly addresses Jazz’s exclusion from girls’ soccer in her state. Ultimately, Jazz’s self-acceptance, bolstered by her family’s support and advocacy, acts as a beacon for readers, trans- and cisgender alike.

An empowering, timely story with the power to help readers proclaim, in the words of Jazz’s parents, “We understand now." (Picture book. 3 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8037-4107-2
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2014


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