The focus of “I Am Jazz” is on presenting diversity related information to children, in a very approachable and meaningful way. The story focuses on Jazz (named after Jazz Jennings and it can be argued that this is a children’s book based on her own life) and how she is a little girl. It also discusses the fact that Jazz is different because Jazz is transgender. It discusses how when she was little she felt different and how finally her parents took her to the hospital. That is where they discovered her identity as a transgender individual.
As a member of the transgender community I wanted to make sure that my first review on the site addressed this aspect of diversity. This book was an easy read and one that provided that for me. The book discusses the topic of being transgender in a way that first makes the conversation about her being a little girl in a little girl world and then it addresses the fact that she is not exactly like every other girl. It addresses these issues of gender identity in a very profound way for a children’s book. The reality is that transgender people are becoming more noticed within the larger society and more people are having to interact with them, especially the younger generation. This book provides a necessary resource for parents to have conversations around this topic that are appropriate and meaningful because the story never becomes about more than Jazz being a little girl in the wrong body. It also showcases greatly that transgender individuals have interests, such as Jazz loving mermaids. Showcasing that transgender people are still people with varied interests is vital in the fight to be better understood and to be fully understood as people just trying to live their own individual best lives without hurting other people.
I would not recommend this book to someone that already has a very deep understanding of the transgender community (i.e. many adults that have studied diversity). This book will be below where you are currently, which is not a bad thing. People have to start somewhere and this is a great resource for people looking to start into the conversation of individuals that are transgender, but it isn’t for those of you that have been dealing with diversity related issues for longer and understand that transgender people are normal everyday people.
I would recommend this book to parents that have a child that is in school with someone that identifies as transgender. This is a resource that will help you to explain and have this conversation with your child. I know it can feel very overwhelming and difficult to have such a profound conversation with your child about diversity related issues, but there are so many resources out there to help you and this is definitely one of them. This can provide a backbone for that conversation to be started. It is approachable and it doesn’t deal with any conversations that would be upsetting to a child (i.e. the possibility of surgery or other medical issues attached to the community). It is simply about a young girl and telling the audience who she is and why she is different, but still a young girl.
Jazz Jennings is a prolific member of the transgender community and has been a very important advocate for transgender related issues. She has done television specials, has a television show entitled “I Am Jazz”, and also as she is older now has another book that is entitled “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen”. This second book may be a better book for slightly older children that need to understand this particular community in a more meaningful way. I have not read this particular book yet, but when I do I will make sure to review it and let you know how it fits with this particular one.