contemporary · lgbtqia

For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu

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Finding one’s place in the world can be hard, but sometimes even more elusive still is finding where you fit in your family.

Peter Huang and his sisters—elegant Adele, shrewd Helen, and Bonnie the bon vivant—grow up in a house of many secrets, then escape the confines of small-town Ontario and spread from Montreal to California to Berlin. Peter’s own journey is obstructed by playground bullies, masochistic lovers, Christian ex-gays, and the ever-present shadow of his Chinese father.

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 by Kim Fu

Published: January 1st 2014 by Random House Australia Pty Ltd

Source: Library

Important notes:

It’s always best to seek out multiple own voices perspectives on stories with trans protagonists. See articles such as Rise of the Gender Novel, which explores the potentially problematic/triggering elements for a trans reader. Also this review, which shares a different trans perspective on the book.

Thoughts:

Audrey is given the name Peter by her parents but expresses her desire to continue life as Audrey by the end of the novel.

The writing of this book is laden with visceral moments. Audrey’s memories pulls the reader into her experiences as a young trans girl who finds it difficult to fit into the cultural and gender expectations that permeate her life. I really appreciated the complexity of the family dynamics and the exploration of how the pressure to assimilate affects an immigrant family on so many levels.

The book also covers Audrey’s early adult life and the gradual steps she takes to assert her identity. Though I found it hard to read some of her later experiences as an adult with both emotionally and physically abusive lovers (trigger warning for rape during these scenes). Those extreme experiences of alienation are balanced with slight moments of hope such as acceptance from unlikely friends and a dream the protagonist holds of being herself with her sisters.

Though I wish there were more of these moments because as important as it is to delve into a sense of alienation that surrounds a person in a narrow-minded society, I also want to read more Trans stories wherein hope and love are shown in equal balance with the pain an individual experiences in life.

Some stories skew more towards a tragic bend in the few LGTBQ+ books I’ve read so far, so I’m open to any book recommendations wherein there is a balance to those elements. There is quiet pull and power to this book, which I appreciate so much but it’s also worth keeping in mind that this shows only one experience in a range of dynamic stories to find and read.

Notes:

*Content warnings for homophobia, transphobia, ableism & rape.

*It’s also been brought to my attention that even though research has gone into this story, it is worth reading more #OwnVoices trans stories, which I will endeavour to do.

*See Vee’s #OwnVoices thoughts + articles for an important perspective on storytelling tropes around the depiction of physical/sexual assault in trans stories.

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12 thoughts on “For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu

  1. I wish there were more stories with Queer protagonists that weren’t dark or bleak. I also have noticed that they tend to lean that way.
    At least Labyrinth Lost was pretty happy. But that wasn’t an “issues” book, which Kim Fu’s book seems to be.
    I’m going to pick up Not Your Sidekick soon. I think that one is a lighthearted, happy book for the most part!

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    1. Thanks so much for the book rec! Not You Sidekick sounds like my sort of book. Labyrinth Lost was so lovely too. I have no more classes left but I’m procrastinating from my last research paper, so I’ll get my thoughts on that book up soon. I love books that tackle issues in a realistic crucial way and still recommend For Today I Am A Boy for that reason but I also think we all need some lighter stories to keep things in balance too. CW just read my mind and posted an excellent discussion post on this topic XD.

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  2. We talked about this book a few months back, during a bookclub I think, and I actually ordered a copy from the library (possibly it had been on my tbr for a while already, at that stage, but I can’t remember) and although I so wanted to read it and be able to discuss and just have the experience of reading thsi book, I didn’t get very far before returning it. Early on there were moments that were just… really hard for me to read, so while I may pick this up at a later stage, I knew it wasn’t the right book for me to read at the moment.

    I, likewise, not only want to be reading ~more~ lgbtiqa+ books, but also to be reading and hearing of more lgbtiqa+ books that are about love and hope and not only pain, because no matter how realistic that pain is, and how important it is that we don’t ignore or diminish the reality of it, I do want some books that… I guess like you say, they balance. There is good and there is bad, and maybe I’d like the good to outweigh the bad, but I know that the books where the bad is outweighing the good are incredibly hard for me to read.

    Lovely review of this, Glaiza. I’m glad to have read your thoughts on it!

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    1. It’s okay! I’m so happy that you ordered it for the library, even when a book doesn’t fit your mood or necessarily click, it’s still available for more people try. I think I’m able to read quite dark books a bit more easily (maybe because I read so many adult ones as a teen) but I definitely want more books with hope too. I love the balance and contrast of a growth arc. My friend CW posted a fantastic discussion on the topic here: https://readthinkponder.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/lets-talk-about-issues-stories-happy-stories-why-we-need-both/

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  3. This is one of those books that, as a genderqueer book blogger, I feel almost obligated to read–but, honestly, I’m exhausted by all dark, painful trans* (and general LGBTQ+) stories out there, and the ones that focus on coming out. I’m especially disappointed to hear about this book’s darker focus, because I was very excited to find a transgender woman of color protagonist. Bah.

    But like you said, it’s great that books like this are available to those who do want them and benefit from them!

    Thanks for linking to CW’s post; I follow her blog, but was on hiatus when she published that review. Both of your reviews are excellent. =)

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    1. Thanks Liam! Spacing/balancing out the darker reads is definitely needed (especially given the current climate) and I’ll be posting a few more books in the future with a more balanced approach.

      Liked by 1 person

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