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I Am J

por Cris Beam

MiembrosReseñasPopularidadValoración promediaMenciones
5073648,898 (3.69)11
J, who feels like a boy mistakenly born as a girl, runs away from his best friend who has rejected him and the parents he thinks do not understand him when he finally decides that it is time to be who he really is.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 36 (siguiente | mostrar todos)
Couldn't get into the first few pages, and flipping through at random didn't yield anything I was sufficiently interested in to start reading. Oh well.
  caedocyon | Feb 23, 2024 |
"Finally, a book about a transgender teen that gives its central character a life in which gender and transition matter but do not define his existence! J lives with his Puerto Rican mother and Jewish father in Manhattan's working-class Washington Heights neighborhood but plans to go to college to study photography. He tries not to think about gender and covers his body in thick layers of clothing, but he still tenses up when his mother calls him “m'ija” or classmates call him “dyke.” After a heated argument with his best friend, Melissa, and a nearly physical fight at school, J starts cutting class. A Google search leads him to the idea of taking testosterone, and J leaves home, certain that his parents will not accept his choices. In his new haunts, including a seedy hotel, a downtown Starbucks, a trans support group and a high school for LGBT students, J encounters a vibrant and diverse cast of characters. Responses to J's transition vary from affirming (his trans poet classmate Chanelle's support) to heartbreaking (his parents' resistance) to maddening (Melissa's attempt to make art with J as her “muse”). Readers will likely come away agreeing with J: “Being trans wasn't special, and yet it was. It was just good and bad and interesting and fucked-up and very human, like anything else.” (Fiction. 14 & up) A Kirkus Starred Review, www.kirkusreviews.com
  CDJLibrary | Mar 30, 2021 |
This feels harsh to write, but hey. Whenever I see I am J recommended, I'm always surprised that it's considered some kind of must-read in LGBT YA. Granted, there isn't anywhere near as much trans rep in teen books -- or any books, really -- as there should be. But really? This book?

My big hang-up is the amount of homophobia and misogyny that J displays. Like, okay, being trans doesn't inherently prevent him from being homophobic or misogynistic -- but neither does it excuse him. And I felt like that wasn't addressed, or J's character didn't develop, or something.

Plus, this is the second popular trans book that has a narrator flipping out over the thought of being gay. Could we just... not do that, please. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
Oh, my lord. Where to start. I Am J is the coming of age tale of J, as he comes to terms with his gender identity. J uses his frustration and the prejudice he faces as justification for being a complete and total jerk. The whole plot involves J starting drama with his friends and family. Though this book is heavily about the transgender story and I can't speak to how well it reflects that, I will say there was plenty of other problematic material that turned me off.

First off, the best friend, Melissa, that up and "deserts" him does so after J kisses her while she's asleep, against her will. She kicks J out of her house and in an email tells him she needs some space afterwards. It's mentioned "If J was a real boy, it would be rape," which I have serious issue with. Just because J is biologically female-- and even if he identified that way as well-- kissing someone without their consent is still sexual assault. Women don't get excused from that behaviour simply for being women. Regardless, Melissa forgives him and they're friends again, despite J never showing remorse for what he did.

The book was also littered with homophobia, as well as some biphobia. J repeatedly stresses how being compared to a lesbian is "awful" and the "worst thing ever." I understand that he wants to be seen as a man, not a butch woman, but the way it was handled was incredibly hurtful. Moreso, during a classroom scene a biphobic comment is expressed by one of the kids: "For reals, this poet shoulda picked men or women or prostitutes. Bisexual's nasty." The other kids all agree and the teacher does nothing to challenge this. Meanwhile there is no representation of lesbian or bisexual characters. As well, we have a scene where J comes across a girl getting sexually exploited, and says he could care less about a bitch and leaves. Finally, after his parents express their love and support for what he's going through, J proceeds to run away and refuses to talk with them. When his mother sits him down to talk about his transition, she tells him that though she doesn't understand, she still loves him. Apparently that isn't good enough as J proceeds to cut contact with her for the most part. All of this and more made it incredibly difficult to find sympathy for J.

Not just in the plot elements, but in every scene J finds some way to be overly selfish, rude, or aggressive in an attempt to be more "masculine." I find this incredibly damaging, as it seemed to reduce being a man to only negative traits. Melissa is quite obnoxious and uses J throughout the book. She is a cutter and an awful representation of it. She is an attention-seeking cutter, right down to her "performance" where she cuts herself in front of an audience, yet she's somehow shocked she's sent to a psych ward afterwards. J's mom was awful for plot reasons, but those reasons could have been solved with some simple communication between J and his father. Their excuse for each other was, "Well, you didn't call either." It hardly felt realistic considering the circumstances. Meanwhile, J's father Manny is described as a complete monster by J, but that is never shown through any of his actions. If anything, he is open, communicative at times, and loving. He is ignorant, though not aggressive about it, but the fact that he calls J "Jeni" sometimes (before he even comes out) makes him some sort of monster.

The writing itself was very bland and clipped. Most sentences were short and to the point, often leaving scenes feeling abrupt. It's rare to say, but this story would have made a lot more sense told from first person point of view rather than third. J begins the book by seeing himself as a "head without a body," and after his assault on Melissa, decides to accept himself as a man. Yet the pronouns are 'he' from the beginning of the book, and though I suppose this is suppose to illustrate that J always had been a man, it just felt off with the narrative. The writing also jumps back and forth in time, often mid-scene, which can be a bit confusing. The flashbacks were incredibly prevalent and were often used to reinforce the scene currently taking place, which gave the sense of convenience. For example, we see flashbacks of Melissa and J's history right before the kiss, and we see flashbacks of why J hates swimming now mid-argument with mom, etc. etc. It's a version of telling through flashbacks instead of working that information organically into the narrative.

All in all, 1/5 stars. A character driven story with horribly unlikable characters. ( )
  KatCarson | Nov 23, 2017 |
Assorted comments:
—the homophobia and misogyny was relentless and went more or less unaddressed ("omg, don't call me a lesbian, ANYTHING but a lesbian, gross" "a bunch of guys are sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl in the other room? I don't care about that stupid bitch" "how dare you compare it to rape when I start making out with my non-consenting best friend while she's sleeping" "I was only attracted to you because I must have known you were secretly a man inside" etc.)
—the main character is a self-absorbed jerk with no capacity for self-reflection and unfortunately goes through absolutely no development in that respect
—the story got a little tiresome, especially with a lack of realistic and likeable characters
—for YA lit, it's pretty up-to-date on trans* politics — which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the asterisk
—the use of Spanish in the novel wasn't obnoxious (I hate it when authors or TV shows use a line in Spanish and then repeat the exact same line in English, instead of letting the context show its meaning; here, the author did the latter)
—none of the female characters had any personality; now that I think about it, the male characters weren't much better either, tbh (J's parents and Chanelle got the closest, but Blue and Melissa were just boring props to J's story)
—gender stereotypes abound

In short, it might be a useful read for someone going through a similar situation, simply because of the lack of YA lit about trans teens, but as far as YA lit goes, it's not very good. And I’m waiting for the day YA authors write a trans guy character who isn’t a raging homophobe and misogynist, because I’m pretty sure it can be done.
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
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J, who feels like a boy mistakenly born as a girl, runs away from his best friend who has rejected him and the parents he thinks do not understand him when he finally decides that it is time to be who he really is.

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