Finding one’s place in the world can be hard, but sometimes even more elusive, 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. Drawing comparisons from Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex to the work of Amy Tan. 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.
I also recommend:
2014 is the year I’ve decided to take chances on things I read – to broaden my worldview and learn more about all of the different types of people who share the earth with me, even more than I’ve done in the past year. In order to do that, I have to also broaden my reading circle and For Today I Am a Boy is one of the books that I chose to read to do just that. Kim Fu’s story follows a young boy who grows up with three sisters and struggles with his gender identity. Add into that the setting of Canada and the Chinese culture that is strong in his home due to having parents who were both born in China and it’s an interesting mix.
There were things that Kim Fu did extremely well in For Today I Am a Boy. One of those things was giving Peter a voice – not just any voice, a voice that made me immediately sympathize with him. He struggled so much not only to understand his own gender-identity, but also to live up to the expectations of being the only boy in a family that values men so much. He grew up surrounded by sisters and in love with movies (my favorite, Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn) that played up the femininity of being a woman. Yet, Peter struggled to not only hide what he was feeling, but to find a place in the very male-dominated groups that he ended up in.
There is real heartbreak and sorrow in For Today I Am a Boy. There is a scene where Peter is involved in some very horrific activities involving a young girl and those activities are looked upon with pride by his father because it proves Peter’s “manhood.” Yet, not all is lost and the relationship of Peter and his father, while complicated, is not as bad as it could have been.
What I struggled with in For Today I Am a Boy ultimately boils down to the books length. Because of the limited number of pages (not even 300), Fu is unable to really explore some themes that crop up. The resolution of the story, as a result, seems like it was gypped – especially when the reader considers the build up to that resolution. I needed to see more healing, more exploring, and more movement toward the very last paragraph of the book which was shocking in its simplistic ending. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disapprove of the ending, just the build up leading to it. I needed more because I had been so involved in the first half of the book that I felt like I’d been cheated out of the growth of Peter in the second half of the book.
Still, I think For Today I Am a Boy is an important step in the release of books that can help not only wreck stereotypes, but educate people on what is going on behind the scenes and what those who are struggling with being different are dealing with. I really felt a connection to Peter and I found myself firmly in his camp throughout the story.
Check out these reviews!
- “I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to diversify their reading. For Today I Am a Boy is a fresh portrayal of a transgender boy growing up in a small-town Chinese Canadian family and later facing the world on his own in a major city.” – Books Speak Volumes
- “At first I was wishing that this book went a little deeper, but after giving it some thought I changed my mind. For Today I Am a Boy dips just far enough below the surface to give the reader a glimpse into a lifestyle that is often left undiscussed.” – The Book Wheel
- “Sensitive, witty and stunningly assured, Kim Fu’s debut novel is a coming-of-age tale like no other, one that lays bare the costs of forsaking one’s own path in deference to a road mapped out by others.” –49th Shelf