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“At birth, Peter had been given the Chinese name juan chaun, powerful king. The exalted only son in the middle of three daughters, Peter was the one who would finally embody his immigrant father’s ideal of power and masculinity. But Peter has different dreams: he is certain he is a girl.

Sensitive, witty, and stunningly assured, Kim Fu’s debut novel lays bare the costs of forsaking one’s own path in deference to one laid out by others. For Today I Am a Boy is a coming-of-age tale like no other, and marks the emergence of an astonishing new literary voice.”

This book was a very simple look into family and gender issues. The main character was clearly a person who wanted to wear women’s clothing and wanted to be seen as a woman, but he (yes, this is the pronoun used in the book and the character never identifies as female in the book so he is appropriate) does not quite move forward from there. He works his butt off in multiple kitchens trying to save money for the future (which it is implied that surgery and hormones may be a part of, but it is not ever explicitly said). There are only small scenes with cross-dressing behavior until he meets a FtM that works in one of the kitchens he works in.

The FtM and his girlfriend help the main character to move forward with his identity. However I really hated the girlfriend and the way she handled pretty much anything. She was very antagonistic when it came to questions about her boyfriend and was just generally a person that I did not like. She was clearly someone that was tired of having to educate people, but she wasn’t quite tired enough to leave her boyfriend over it. Though there was a random scene that left a bad taste in my mouth, but was never addressed again. The FtM kissed the main character, but never had any discussion of it later.

The family situation that the main character was going through was rough. His father was domineering to the point his mother didn’t speak, his sisters were different types of crazy (and I do mean in the clinical sense of they probably had multiple forms of diagnosis), and he was not the best at handling any of the family. So overall this book was less about gender identity and more about generally finding yourself after growing up in a very oppressive environment created by a Chinese father. There was a lot of talk about how Western everyone should be and how strict the gender roles had to be. This all lead to a great lack of ability for all of the characters in the family to have real identities. This was fascinating.

Overall, this book was a slow read that took some effort to get through. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best book I have read. I would love to give the author more attention because this was one of the best portrayals of transsexual people I have read from someone that did not explicitly say they were in the trans* spectrum in their author bio.

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4 out of 5 stars. I would highly recommend this book. ​

You can buy this book here.

~Isaiah

 

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