'I Am Jazz' — by trans activist from South Florida — among nation's most banned kids' books
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.
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:
- Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, about the pioneering LGBTQ activist and member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, written by Rob Sanders and Steve Salerno
- And Tango Makes Three, a book about the true story of two male penguins at New York City’s Central Park Zoo who raised a baby penguin, written by Peter Parnell, Justin Richardson and Henry Cole
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.