Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen (Book Review)

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Today I’m reviewing Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, by LGBTQ teen activit Jazz Jennings, a memoir Publisher’s Weekly called a “candid introduction” to issues faced by transgender youth.

Most of my readers will be at least familiar with Jennings, having been in the public eye since the age of six thanks to the Barbara Walters documentary “I’m a Girl (Understanding Transgender Children).”  Being Jazz fills in some gaps, picks up the story where the documentary left off and recaps the author’s early impressions of gender identity.  It’s just as “candid” as you’d expect, and at times downright cathartic.  Here’s what I thought of Being Jazz.

WHAT WORKED FOR ME:

If you’re looking for realism, openness and honesty when it comes to the social, romantic and mental aspects of being transgender, you’ve come to the right place.  Being Jazz succeeded for me where other trans memoirs failed in terms of relateability, even though I was born several years earlier than the author.  Jennings isn’t afraid to be vulgar where vulgarity is necessary.  For instance, when discussing the experience of being bullied, she quotes the other children directly, down to the familiar slang phrase “chick with a dick.”

I also found it brave of Jennings to discuss her ongoing struggle with depression, something attributed to genetics rather than gender identity.  I found these simple ruminations to be especially cathartic and thoughtful.  Existential fears, the futility of life and such is discussed in no uncertain terms later in the book.  It really rounds the author out as a flesh and blood young person we can all relate to.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME:

There were times when the commercial aspect of the book leant a kind of plasticity to the writing.  Especially in terms of format.  I didn’t care for the chapter titles being named after quotes from the narrative.  There were also times I felt like some of the plasticity came from a slight overuse of outlining which may or may not have been a part of the writing process.  But give her a break, Jade, she’s a teenage girl who’s published more books than you!

OVERALL:

I’m so glad I experienced Being Jazz.  Even if I struggled with some of the formating and possibly shoe horned aspects of the book, I found myself engaged for long periods of time.  What Jazz Jennings does here is show the public how much we have in common with queer and LGBT people, even those  of us who aren’t a part of minorities ourselves.  I gave Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen four stars on Goodreads.

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