Imagine a world where it’s no big deal to be transgender, a safe space for everyone. I Am Jazz is the kind of children’s book that brings us closer to that world.
With a matter-of-fact and endearing voice, Jazz explains her journey to getting everyone around her to accept her identity. The book begins like any other children’s book about a little girl: Jazz’s favorite color is pink, and she likes dancing, singing, soccer, and mermaids. The turning point comes after Jazz introduces her best friends, Samantha and Casey, with whom she enjoys cartwheels and trampolines. “But I’m not exactly like Samantha and Casey,” she continues, “I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way!” Even as a toddler, Jazz tried to correct her mother when she called her a good boy. “No, Mama. Good GIRL!” This confused her family, and for awhile there was a struggle: her parents forced her to wear boy clothes when they went out, and Jazz felt like pretending to be a boy was like “telling a lie.” Finally, her parents took her to a doctor who asked her a lot of questions, and Jazz heard the word “transgender” for the first time. That night her parents said, “We understand now. Be who you are. We love you no matter what.” So she got to grow her hair long and wear girl clothes to school. Teachers and classmates who were confused eventually came around, and Jazz declares, “I don’t mind being different. Different is special! I think what matters most is what a person is like inside.”
What makes this book especially powerful is that Jazz Jennings is a real, thirteen-year-old girl, and this is her story. We see pictures of her on the last page of the book, with information about the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation she cofounded. She’s been on shows like Oprah and speaks at schools and conferences across the country. It’s safe to say that Jazz and her story are making an impact on our society, helping to make it a safer, more inclusive environment for all little kids.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended. Ages 4-8.
Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao