Book Review: I Am J by Cris Beam
Plot Summary: J had always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a “real boy” and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible — from his parents, from his friends, from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he’s done hiding — it’s time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.
My Review: One of the great things about this book is its main character J. He is fleshed-out well enough that he is just a person rather than a transgender person. He is a photographer, a comic book geek, and his ethnicity is Puerto-Rican and Jewish. J’s ethnicity and interest in photography adds depth to J as well as the plot.
In addition to the main character, the supporting characters were fleshed out well too. They are diverse enough that they provide a different view of Jay’s world. A few characters represent the uninformed and narrow-minded view of transexuality and homosexuality. Contrastly, some represent the tolerant or supportive side. Also, the inclusion of gays and bisexuals is an honest and fair aspect.
Besides the characters, the plot is emotionally charged. J’s journey to become the person he wants to be is internal and external. By following the story from J’s point of view, you can see and feel what it is like to go from hating yourself to embracing yourself. Through the supporting characters, you can see what it is like to feel like misunderstood, excluded, and accepted by others.
Finally, the author’s writing style is amazing. Using photography, he cleverly displayed J’s self-worth. It literally progresses from a shadow of his true self to his true potential being realized. Furthermore, he uses a photography term called “parallax” as a metaphor for how people view each other.
Overall, this was a poignant and authentic read that was well researched. I recommend this to anyone who wants a better understanding of transgender community or any transgender youth.