Teens’ Top Ten 2011: I am J by Cris Beam

I am J by Cris Beam is one of the Teens’ Top Ten nominations for 2011.

J was born Jenifer, a girl who at age 3 knew she wanted to be a “he”. His teenage years were fraught with bullies and cruel misperceptions. Inside J was not a lesbian who liked girls, but instead was a “real boy”. The loathing of his developed breasts led to his wearing layers and layers of clothes, and he starved himself in hopes of avoiding his monthly period. His parents, a Jewish father and Puerto Rican, Catholic mother, would not give up on the idea that their only child was a princess, who would someday graduate college and marry a nice man.

J has a torrential fight with his best friend Melissa, who still sees J as a lesbian, but unable to accept him as a transguy. (J also has a slight crush on Melissa, as well.) Then, he has an altercation with his mother about skipping school. Feeling as though he is done, he runs away from home, thus beginning his journey, which includes binding his breasts, searching high and low for testosterone shots, and transferring to a special school for gay, lesbian and transgender teens. But as this challenging transition evolves, several wonderful windows manage to open up to a much brighter world for J, and he makes several poignant revelations at the end of the story. This moving novel is realistic and paints an accurate, detailed picture of what it is like to transition from female to male. This story will show the power of perseverance, as well as speak with hope, to all teens unable to connect to others for fear of other people’s perceptions of them. As J said, “What you see depends on where you stand.”

To read more about the Teens’ Top Ten program, click here.  To request this book from Wake County Libraries, click here.  Voting begins August 22, 2011 and ends September 16, 2011.  To vote during these dates, click here.

Review by Terry at RBH.

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