A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Jazz Jennings
- Genre: Autobiography
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: June 7, 2016
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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