© 2024 WLRN
MIAMI | SOUTH FLORIDA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'I Am Jazz' — by trans activist from South Florida — among nation's most banned kids' books

PEN America counted school book bans in the 2021-2022 school year and found an alarming 1,648 titles banned somewhere in the United States. The most banned books were primarily young adult or adult titles, but picture books for the youngest readers were not spared, with 317 titles banned, including “I Am Jazz,” the story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of transgender activist Jazz Jennings.
PEN America
/
PEN America
PEN America counted school book bans in the 2021-2022 school year and found an alarming 1,648 titles banned somewhere in the United States. The most banned books were primarily young adult or adult titles, but picture books for the youngest readers were not spared, with 317 titles banned, including “I Am Jazz,” the story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of transgender activist Jazz Jennings.

A book written by a local transgender activist has been banned more than almost any other children’s book in the country, according to PEN America, a national advocacy group for literacy and free expression.

The book I Am Jazz was written by Jazz Jennings, who grew up in South Florida and graduated from Broward County Public Schools in 2019.

In the picture book, Jennings tells her story of growing up trans and her experience of socially transitioning and making friends.

“My best friends are Samantha and Casey,” the book reads. “We always have fun together. We like high heels and princess gowns, or cartwheels and trampolines. But I’m not exactly like Samantha and Casey. I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way!”

According to PEN America’s count, I Am Jazz tied with two other titles as the most-banned picture book in the country during the 2021-2022 school year. The other two books are:

In a video of Jennings reading the book produced by the LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, she says the story is meant to show kids that they can live as their authentic selves.

“I know it’s hard living in this world and that sometimes people just don’t understand. But if you just stay strong and keep moving forward, and just stay true to who you are no matter what, then one day things will get better,” Jennings said. “You are beautiful no matter what.”

According to a review published by Kirkus, the book is rated for ages 3 and up and is “[a]n empowering, timely story with the power to help readers proclaim, in the words of Jazz’s parents, “We understand now."

I Am Jazz is among the scores of books that Florida parents and conservative officials are targeting — many of which focus on queer characters and people of color.

Right-wing activists have been taking aim at books that mention LGBTQ topics and books about sex education and human development, claiming they’re inappropriate or even pornographic, with some saying teachers who give the books out are priming children for abuse — echoing QAnon conspiracy theories.

At the same time, teachers are gutting their classroom libraries, under pressure from state officials who have warned that educators who give out books that are deemed “harmful to minors” could be charged with a felony.

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
More On This Topic