What’s it all about?:
The story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere.
“This is an essential tool for parents and teachers to share with children whether those kids identify as trans or not. I wish I had had a book like this when I was a kid struggling with gender identity questions. I found it deeply moving in its simplicity and honesty.”—Laverne Cox (who plays Sophia in “Orange Is the New Black”)
From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.
Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library
Welcome to the eighth banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings and Shelagh McNicholas (illustrator)
First published: 2014
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group.
Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: I Am Jazz is quite a new release compared to the books we often discuss, being first published in 2014 a mere four years ago as I write this post. Now I like to think we live in enlightened times and as a result, there will be far fewer recent releases that will be challenged/banned but unfortunately I Am Jazz seems to have the censors all fired up. The reasons as you can see above, make my blood boil. I can’t imagine what it’s like personally to go through the transgender experience but just because you don’t have much personal knowledge on it doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself and that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few years whenever possible i.e. watching documentaries, reading memoirs, discussing the issue with open-minded friends. There ARE individuals out there who feel as if they have been born in the wrong body which quite frankly, must be terrifying and horribly confusing and to have this book challenged/banned is just fanning the flames and the self-righteous attitude of those other people who don’t believe that being transgender is “a thing.” This is particularly true when I consider the reasons – inaccurate and homosexuality. At what point does this book scream inaccurate can I just ask?! That’s a person’s LIFE you’re talking about there. Also, homosexuality which I’ve covered in other banned books posts, which makes me roll my eyes and get a bit cross is NEVER a reason to ban a book. Plus, I don’t believe there was even any mention of homosexuality in this picture book for children anyway. It’s about a little girl who was born in the body of a boy and who is telling us her story of how she longed to be a girl so much, including how there are some people that don’t really understand but how she has super duper supportive parents. Sacrilege! (*in my best sarcastic voice.*)
CHRISSI: The fact that this book is banned is absolutely ridiculous. It really is. I think the most offensive reason for me is inaccurate. INACCURATE? How on Earth can Jazz’s feelings be inaccurate. Only she knows how she feels! As for religious viewpoint? Well… I understand that some religions may not ‘believe’ in people being transgender, but guess what? Some people are. Even if you don’t agree with it, I strongly believe that we need to be more tolerant. There are some parts of other religions that I strongly disagree with, but I’d never slate them for it, because it’s THEIR belief and they’re entitled to it. Much like I Am Jazz deserves a place in the library, in schools and in homes.
How about now?
BETH: As the book was only published about four years ago, I’m sad to say I don’t think attitudes will have changed too much from those who wanted to challenge/ban this book but hopefully we can still encourage people in the community to talk and to better inform those of us who are interested and willing to listen, including myself. As for the final reasons, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group – well, I’m sure you can imagine what I think of those! Firstly, this PICTURE book is written in such a way that makes it suitable for children of any age and it’s certainly very scant on details which make it “sex education” in my eyes. Where was the religious viewpoint? I must have missed that but even if there was, I’ve already gone into detail on other banned books posts about my views on religion and how I enjoy reading about other people’s viewpoints on this, even if they don’t match my own.
CHRISSI: Sadly, I think some people would still have an issue with this book which is worrying. It is certainly not a book offensive to the age in which it is intended for. It’s a picture book with a gentle story that definitely needs to be explored. As a teacher, I would certainly use this in the classroom. I know that there’s a girl that comes to mind that I taught in my first year of teaching that would have loved this book. I’m not saying she’s transgender, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was in the future. NOTE- This book has been challenged again in 2016… reasons: because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints and 2017: This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.
What did you think of this book?:
BETH: This was a very quick, sweet and hopeful read that I think will be very informative for curious children but especially transgender children who it might finally help to realise that they’re not completely alone. I was also thinking it might be a great tool to use for parents at home if children have a transgender member of their class at school to help them understand what their classmate might be going through and to hopefully, iron out those prejudices before they have a chance to develop.
CHRISSI: I thought it was an adorable read. I think it’s important that there are picture books out there aimed at this subject. It’s an educative tool to use in the classroom to help other children to understand. I think this book is needed and the fact that it is challenged upsets me.
Would you recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!
BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):
Coming up on the last Monday of September, we review Taming The Star Runner by S.E. Hinton.