Cole Jack's Reviews > I am J

I am J by Cris Beam
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's review
Aug 17, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: transrepresentation
Read from August 27 to 29, 2011

Identity is a challenging thing to understand and come to terms with, especially during high school and middle school. J is a Puerto Rican-Jewish high school senior struggling to discover his identity, as many people before have struggled. We are introduced to J on his way to a party with his best friend. From the beginning, J’s discomfort with people perceiving him as female is obvious, but this discomfort is only just beginning. J soon has to deal not only with his normal teen angst, but with his gradual awareness that he is a transguy.

This review might at first seem confusing. I use male pronouns, but that is part of the book itself, and a part that I enjoyed. Cris Beam structured her novel so that it was told from J’s perspective, complete with male pronouns. Although it was slightly didactic at times, Beam gave logical reasoning behind her decision to use male pronouns for J from the beginning. I appreciated that she decided to do this and that she didn’t follow the somewhat tired tradition of using female pronouns until her transguy character came out.

I have mixed feelings about I am J. On one hand, I wish I had read a book like this when I was younger. I wish I had seen other transpeople in print and had heard about trans support groups before I was in university. Without a doubt, I am J will raise awareness about trans people and issues with coming out. That said this coming out story is highly dramatic and full of angst. J runs away from home at the least provocation. This would make sense to me if he was younger, but I expect seniors in high school to think about things more clearly. My gut reaction that J is acting somewhat strangely and overly dramatic comes from my own background, but I do appreciate that Beam was willing to address homeless queer youth and in an open way.

I am J, is a coming of age story that will raise awareness about trans characters, despite the almost excessive level of drama it includes.

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Reading Progress

08/27/2011 page 5
1.0% "I'm not sure how I feel about seeing "tr*nny" in a review on the back of this book. Yes, a trans writer wrote the review. The problem is that it's still an offensive term. Another problem is that as a transman myself, I don't believe transmen can reclaim the word. It has typically been used as a slur against transwomen and a transman using it cannot truly be considered reclaiming."

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