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I Am J

By Cris Beam

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Subjects: Self-Discovery, Personal Development, Relationships/Sexuality

Grade: 10-12


Educator Guide Book Club Discussion Guide


J had always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a “real boy” and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible—from his parents, from his friends, from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he’s done hiding—it’s time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.


Cris Beam delivers a powerful and inspiring story of self-discovery as readers share in J’s struggle to find his own path and to love his true self.



★ “Easily the best book to date about the complicated condition of being a [transgender] teen, not only sharing important information that is artfully woven into the plot but also creating, in J, a multilayered, absolutely believable character whose pain readers will share. Perhaps most importantly, the author brings clarity and charity to a state of being that has too long been misunderstood, ignored, and deplored.” —Booklist


★ “The novel’s greatest strengths are J’s voice and his clearly articulated perspective. The tone is believably histrionic, perfectly attuned to adolescence…even readers with little familiarity with transgender issues will find plenty to relate to on an emotional level.” —BCCB


★ “Finally, a book about a transgender teen that gives its central character a life in which gender and transition matter but do not define his existence!” —Kirkus Reviews


“J’s personal frustrations and desires are strongly conveyed, pulling readers into the internal narrative…a gift to transgender teens and an affecting story of self-discovery for all readers.” —The Horn Book


“It is J’s authentic voice that keeps this challenging story from simply being a problem novel…Readers should be absorbed by J’s struggle to prove ‘My gender’s not a lie. I am not a lie.'” —Publishers Weekly


“J is an especially vivid character…the story is believable and effective due to insightful situations, realistic language, and convincing dialogue.” —School Library Journal