Banned Books #50- I Am Jazz

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books feature. This month we read I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.

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I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings and Shelagh McNicholas (illustrator)
First published: 2014
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I Am Jazz is quite a new release compared to the books we often discuss, being first published in 2014 a mere four years ago as I write this post. Now I like to think we live in enlightened times and as a result, there will be far fewer recent releases that will be challenged/banned but unfortunately I Am Jazz seems to have the censors all fired up. The reasons as you can see above, make my blood boil. I can’t imagine what it’s like personally to go through the transgender experience but just because you don’t have much personal knowledge on it doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself and that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few years whenever possible i.e. watching documentaries, reading memoirs, discussing the issue with open-minded friends. There ARE individuals out there who feel as if they have been born in the wrong body which quite frankly, must be terrifying and horribly confusing and to have this book challenged/banned is just fanning the flames and the self-righteous attitude of those other people who don’t believe that being transgender is “a thing.” This is particularly true when I consider the reasons – inaccurate and homosexuality. At what point does this book scream inaccurate can I just ask?! That’s a person’s LIFE you’re talking about there. Also, homosexuality which I’ve covered in other banned books posts, which makes me roll my eyes and get a bit cross is NEVER a reason to ban a book. Plus, I don’t believe there was even any mention of homosexuality in this picture book for children anyway. It’s about a little girl who was born in the body of a boy and who is telling us her story of how she longed to be a girl so much, including how there are some people that don’t really understand but how she has super duper supportive parents. Sacrilege! (*in my best sarcastic voice.*)

CHRISSI: The fact that this book is banned is absolutely ridiculous. It really is. I think the most offensive reason for me is inaccurate. INACCURATE? How on Earth can Jazz’s feelings be inaccurate. Only she knows how she feels! As for religious viewpoint? Well… I understand that some religions may not ‘believe’ in people being transgender, but guess what? Some people are. Even if you don’t agree with it, I strongly believe that we need to be more tolerant. There are some parts of other religions that I strongly disagree with, but I’d never slate them for it, because it’s THEIR belief and they’re entitled to it. Much like I Am Jazz deserves a place in the library, in schools and in homes.

How about now?

BETH: As the book was only published about four years ago, I’m sad to say I don’t think attitudes will have changed too much from those who wanted to challenge/ban this book but hopefully we can still encourage people in the community to talk and to better inform those of us who are interested and willing to listen, including myself. As for the final reasons, sex education, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group – well, I’m sure you can imagine what I think of those! Firstly, this PICTURE book is written in such a way that makes it suitable for children of any age and it’s certainly very scant on details which make it “sex education” in my eyes. Where was the religious viewpoint? I must have missed that but even if there was, I’ve already gone into detail on other banned books posts about my views on religion and how I enjoy reading about other people’s viewpoints on this, even if they don’t match my own.

CHRISSI: Sadly, I think some people would still have an issue with this book which is worrying. It is certainly not a book offensive to the age in which it is intended for. It’s a picture book with a gentle story that definitely needs to be explored. As a teacher, I would certainly use this in the classroom. I know that there’s a girl that comes to mind that I taught in my first year of teaching that would have loved this book. I’m not saying she’s transgender, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was in the future.  NOTE- This book has been challenged again in 2016… reasons:  because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints and 2017: This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

Urgh. 😦

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This was a very quick, sweet and hopeful read that I think will be very informative for curious children but especially transgender children who it might finally help to realise that they’re not completely alone. I was also thinking it might be a great tool to use for parents at home if children have a transgender member of their class at school to help them understand what their classmate might be going through and to hopefully, iron out those prejudices before they have a chance to develop.

CHRISSI: I thought it was an adorable read. I think it’s important that there are picture books out there aimed at this subject. It’s an educative tool to use in the classroom to help other children to understand. I think this book is needed and the fact that it is challenged upsets me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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George

George

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not….

Thoughts:

I had heard SO much about this book from fellow bloggers that I just knew I had to check it out. I was immediately pulled into George’s story. It’s such an engaging, touching read that I do highly recommend. I can totally see why so many people love it!

The story centres around George who identifies as a girl. At school, they’ve been studying Charlotte’s Web, they’re going to perform the story and George is desperate to be Charlotte. George’s love of the book helps her to show everyone that she identifies as a girl. In George’s eyes, she is a girl, she just has to make everyone else aware of that.

I loved George’s friendship with Kelly. Kelly just accepted George for who she was which was absolutely heart-warming. This book felt realistic to me, because it did have hard moments within it. Everything wasn’t easily accepted and I imagine that’s true to George’s situation. George’s mother wasn’t accepting to begin with and I feel like this is how it could possibly be for many that identify as transgender.

Another thing that I really loved about this book, was that George did feel 10 years old. The writing was incredibly lovely and simplistic. It really felt like I was living George’s life as he struggled with his identity. She was so brave! I think it’s such an inspiring story.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An inspiring story which I think is truly wonderful!

Banned Books #31- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to the first Banned Books of 2017, where Beth and I read Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

Synopsis:

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
First published: 2014
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is a one of our most recently published “banned/challenged” books that we’ve chosen, only being published in 2014. Well, it sure seemed to cause a stir as it was immediately placed on the frequently challenged list for 2015! I don’t agree with any of the reasons for this book being challenged to be perfectly honest but I think I do know why the topic causes such a furore. I think the world of children who are transgender is relatively new (in the fact that we hear about it a hell of a lot more, not that the children never existed before). I think a lot of people either don’t understand or don’t believe that being transgender even exists and find it difficult to come to terms with, sometimes especially if it is their own child. I’m hoping with more publicity that people can educate themselves and the majority of ignorance surrounding it can be reduced.

CHRISSI:  This is one of the books that is banned/challenged that I want to roll my eyes at, because it really shouldn’t be. Like Beth, I understand why it has been challenged. It seems recently that transgender is much more publicised than it used to be. Of course, there’s always been transgender around, but it’s definitely more prevalent in the media. You would think that this means the book shouldn’t be banned, and I’d agree, but I can see why it is at challenged because it kicks off a whole debate and arguments about what gender really is. I hope that one day it won’t be such an issue and those that aren’t educated about transgender could be!

How about now?

BETH: See above answer. I will however, go into more depth about the reasons but will try to remain relatively calm. Offensive language – yep, I admit, it’s in there but as I’ve said about other banned books in our series, no worse than what children would hear in school, television, out and about etc. Then there are other reasons that make me want to do that little red angry emoji face. Like anti-family?! I mean, WHAT? Why would being a transgender teenager threaten or go against a loving family? Especially if they are supportive which is just all kinds of awesome if they are. And the last reason…oh my goodness, I just really wonder at the people who are complaining, to be honest. They really need some education.

CHRISSI: My answer is the same as the above although I would like to see the world in change in their attitude towards transgender. It seems ridiculous to me that we can’t be more accepting but perhaps that’s me being naive. As I read this book, I thought of a girl at my current school that still adamantly insists she’s a boy. I wonder what the future holds for her and hope it’s a more accepting one.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I enjoyed it! I felt I learned a lot more about what teenagers go through if they feel they have been born into the wrong body. I watched a Louis Theroux documentary here in the UK recently about transgender children and that was brilliant but I really wanted an informative, touching non-fiction book about the real experience as kids grow up. That was exactly what I got. The photographs were the icing on the cake and it was marvellous to see the children in their “wrong” and in their “right” body. I think this could be a hugely important book for any teenager struggling with this issue.

CHRISSI: I thought it was a great book! It was really interesting to read from their experience of how they felt in their ‘wrong’ body. It was fascinating to see the photographs too. I really thought that added to the reading experience.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars!

Gracefully Grayson

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How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.

Thoughts:

Ami Polonsky’s Gracefully Grayson was picked for me for Luna’s Picks to read by my blog readers. I was supposed to read it back in November, but I had trouble getting hold of a copy. I’m so glad I persevered though as it was a stunning and beautifully realised debut novel.

Gracefully Grayson is about a boy named Grayson who is hiding a secret. He believes he is a girl on the inside. He doesn’t feel like he ‘belongs’ in his body. It makes him feel different to the rest of his classmates. Grayson has always been intrigued by girls clothes and princesses. He thought that he could hide this from his peers and family members, but throughout the course of the book, Grayson soon starts accepting his uniqueness when he tries out for the role of Persephone in the school play. Of course, and can be unfortunately anticipated- it takes a while for his peers and some of the adults surrounding Grayson to accept that he is playing a female part.

I found Grayson’s Aunt incredibly frustrating when she tried to put him off the play. Perhaps she meant well, maybe she wanted to protect Grayson from harm, but in fact, to me,  she symbolised all the close minded people out there who aren’t willing to accept change or difference from others.

The ending of this book is particularly powerful. Gracefully Grayson makes a huge impact despite it being a short read. I felt like Grayson gained the confidence to show the world how he felt on the inside. Grayson seems tired of people’s opinions and is ready to show the world who exactly he is!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A beautiful story of finding identity amidst much confusion!