Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reading Challenge Book 25: I Am Jazz


Now, the rules for the #52BooksIn52Weeks challenge do state that qualifying books shouldn't be children's books, and should be a minimum of 100 pages in length. Regarding children's literature, a story must have significant complexity in order to count for this challenge.

Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings

This book is about Jazz, a transgender child who has a supportive and loving family that helps her transition and become on the outside who she is on the inside. It is a story with very little in the way of conflict, as the adults and other characters in Jazz's life don't put her through what a lot of trans people have to go through.

That does not, in any way, diminish the importance of this story.

Human society has been evolving, and especially in my lifetime, that pace has been quickening. Sometimes this leads to pain, warfare, and strife; other times, it leads to love. Are there more LGBTQ people in 2016 than there were in 1994? I don't think so. But I'm not afraid today to admit to the things that I kept locked up inside of me when I was fourteen. If I had had a book like this as a child, maybe life would have gone differently. Maybe not. But I think that this story is important enough that I sent a copy to my son and I also bought a copy as a gift for my roommate.

I know Jazz has a reality show (gag me with a spoon) and an autobiography (it's on my wishlist), so there is more than just this one book. But if this book was all there was of Jazz, it would be enough. This is just my belief, but I think it is important that children be exposed to a variety of stories. Black, white, gay, straight, transgender, fantastical, realistic, Christian, Pagan, Muslim....diversity should start at an early age.

When my ex and I were still together, our son's favorite movie was Tangled. So I bought him a poster for his wall that prominently featured Rapunzel (with supporting characters arrayed behind her). One of my friends came over and asked why I had a girl's poster up in my son's room. The question really irked me. Who cares if Disney aimed Tangled at girls? At its core, it is a movie for children. My child loved the movie, so why should it matter what sex the child is? Like what you like. Be who you are.

I've examined my gender expression and sexuality over the years, and in especially more detail over the past five or so. I'm biologically male, but inside my head...that doesn't always jive. I'm not going to run out and get surgery or anything, because I'm definitely not a woman trapped in a man's body (although I really think I'd look smashing with breasts). I'm something else...I'm not sure what that is yet, but books like I Am Jazz gives me hope that society will open up enough for me to figure it out.

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