Author: Kim Fu
Genre: YA LGBTQI+
Page Count: 187
“I remembered dancing, I remembered the gown twirling, I remembered the boy who complimented my ass, I remembered being told I was beautiful. I remembered the woman staring back at me in the Métro windows, her wink.“
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 is a coming-of-age tale like no other, and marks the emergence of an astonishing new literary voice.
NOTE: As the majority of the story is following Peter, I will use that name to reference the protagonist in my review. However, since Peter identifies as a woman, I will be using she/her pronouns. If you feel this is incorrect, please let me know! This article brought to my attention by CW at Read, Think, Ponder highlights some of the stereotypical issues of trans found in For Today I Am A Boy, and I highly recommend everyone reads it.
For Today I Am A Boy is an emotionally raw and powerful book that explores the life and upbringing of a Chinese trans woman. Raised in a family surrounded by three sisters, Peter is targeted by his westernized ideal obsessed father to be the “man” of the household. The story chronicles Peter’s struggle with expectations of masculinity, school bullies, and troubling friends and lovers.
I would not say this is a book that I enjoyed, but it is a book that I will be eternally grateful for reading. Fu’s writing style truly highlighted the terrible upbringing that Peter suffered through, and how she was motivated to survive. Peter struggles with being forced into a life by her father and then haunted by his expectations, being cast off by her own mother, dealing with bullies in grade school and later in life, little self-esteem and feeling uncomfortable in your skin, and everything in between. This is the type of book that grabs onto your heartstrings and refuses to let go, no matter what.
All of the characters present in the story are well fleshed out, and full of character who are not just stereotypes. Peter’s mother is frail and weak in the beginning, over shadowed by her dominating father. Yet, her mother blossoms and develops throughout the story. Her sisters were truly interesting to read. Adele, the oldest, lived a free life and broke her father’s expectations of becoming a doctor, but still suffers some consequences of her actions. Helen was the studious one, who lived the successful but ultimately extremely lonely life. Then we have Bonnie (who was the youngest child) who lived through a rebellious phase as a teenager, and could only find solace later in her life in Peter. Of course, Peter was also wonderfully fleshed out as we learned more and more about her fight with gender identity.
In my mind, the book focused on loneliness and truly showed the impact of it. It was present in every aspect of the story. It was shown in Peter and her siblings childhood through the lack of love from their parents, Peter’s mother from being stuck in an abusive marriage, and through Peter herself when she returns to her apartment after work, sitting on the floor alone in her sister’s clothes. The feeling can be found anywhere, even when you’re surrounded by people and Fu demonstrated this perfectly.
One of the only things that bothered me about the book was the snapshot way of telling Peter’s story instead of in a linear fashion. The majority of the book, I was extremely confused on where we were in her life, and how old she was. At times, it led to me feeling quite disconnected from the characters simply because I couldn’t tell where the story was going.
Overall, For Today I Am A Boy is book that everyone should read. It’s an extremely diverse story that highlights the trials and tribulations of simply being different. It’s was one of the most powerful books I’ve read, and the impact of it brought me to tears. I highly, HIGHLY recommend this.