Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen Book Poster Image
Candid, chatty memoir is powerful voice for trans kids.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Frank explanation of what it means to be transgender and what that experience can be like for a growing child, from toddlerhood through puberty. Depicts both discriminatory treatment transgender people may face and how support systems and upstanders can help. Inside look at ways reality TV isn't always realistic. Extensive resource section at the end of the book recommends supportive organizations, services, books for kids and parents, films, and TV shows. Some of the media recommendations are more appropriate for older teens.

Positive Messages

Don't judge people by their appearance. Drawing public attention to unfairness can lead to positive change. Little fights for justice can be just as significant as large ones. It's important to stand up for yourself, but stay safe. Finding a supportive community make hardships easier to bear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jazz is confident, asserting her right to be treated like any other girl. She's also optimistic, looking for brighter days ahead when she's feeling low. Her family is very loving and deeply committed to supporting her, and Jazz's words along with interviews in the back of the book portray how their views have been shaped by knowing Jazz.

Violence

Family worries for Jazz's safety. There are anecdotes about suicide and bullying.

Sex

Jazz is eager for her first kiss and romantic relationship and vividly describes first French kiss. Discussion of puberty and sexual development, genitalia, and sexual desires. Author relates getting in trouble for drawing nude figures in early elementary school. In a Q&A at the back of the book, a teen boy warns that "boys want one thing" and teases his brother as a "loser" for not dating.

Language

Crass references to anatomy ("boobs," "butt," "balls") plus proper terminology for male and female anatomical parts, plus other coarse language including "screw it," "crap," and "BS," and author sometimes refers to her male genitalia as a "D." Slurs including "chick with a dick" and "tranny."

Consumerism

References to Jazz's reality series, YouTube channel, and picture book, famous people she's met, and her sales of homemade mermaid tales to support her charitable organization.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 15-year-old transgender activist, YouTube star, and TV personality Jazz Jennings talks frankly about sexual development and romantic drama -- including first kisses and awkward dates -- in her memoir Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen. Jazz is forthright about her difficulties dating and finding good friends and about dealing with depression. She discusses the bullying and emotional anguish many trans people suffer and their heightened risk for suicide, and she acknowledges her relatively privileged experience as a trans teen with a loving family, material comfort, and broad support. Jazz, who previously co-wrote a picture book for younger children, is very open in discussing her gender identity and puberty: She refers to male and female genitalia with both proper terminology and slang and discusses slurs referencing her genitalia. She incorporates plentiful references to celebrities, her reality TV series, and her public acclaim and recognition as a trans teen activist.

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written byKrystal C. September 17, 2016

I AM JAZZ IS FOR TWEENS AND TEENS

This show is most likely for tweens who are curious in knowing about trans. Also it attracts teens, it has some skinky subjects about sex and relationships. par... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 10, 2016

Responsible Children

Thus book is for okay for Children who want to learn about transgenders and are responsible enough to handle what this book is about.

What's the story?

In BEING JAZZ, transgender activist Jazz Jennings, 15, describes what it was like to know -- even as a toddler -- that she was a girl in a boy's body and how her family came to understanding, acceptance, and full, loving support. Jazz recounts her publicized battles to use the girls' bathroom in elementary school and to play on the girls' soccer team. More intimately, she shares how difficult it's been to make and keep friends and pursue romantic relationships. Jazz also discusses dealing with fame from her work as an activist and her family's reality TV show.

Is it any good?

Transgender activist Jazz Jennings holds little back in her frank, funny memoir -- she shares soaring highs and humiliating lows, her ambition and depression, and her unique experience with puberty. In Being Jazz, she writes with the bubbly voice and confident intimacy familiar to her fans from YouTube and TV. Sometimes she's a funny best friend, confiding how she farted through a date or finagled her first French kiss. But she's also an ambassador and advocate, detailing the challenges she's endured as a trans girl: regularly peeing herself in school because she couldn't use the girls' bathroom, being sidelined because she couldn't play on a girls' soccer team, being ostracized by peers because she's transgender.

The narrative can be jumpy, and the name-dropping while she assures readers she's just an ordinary girl is grating. But her no-holds-barred style makes this a vitally important book for trans kids, their friends and family, and anyone who seeks to understand them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fame and privilege affect Jazz's experience as a transgender girl in Being Jazz. How do you think her experience would be different if her family didn't support her, if she were poor, or if she wasn't so well-known?

  • Jazz always insisted she was a girl and came out to the world with a TV appearance at the age of 6. How could you support a friend who's coming out? What kind of support would you want if you were coming out?

  • How have you challenged injustice and unfair treatment?

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