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Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

Peter's Huang's father insists that he be the perfect, macho, heterosexual son. How does Peter explain that he's not any of those things?

Don’t Worry About Tomorrow

BOOK REPORT for For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu

Cover Story: Like it Says on the Tin
Drinking Buddy: 1980s Montreal
Testosterone/Estrogen Level: High
Talky Talk: Who Are You?
Bonus Factor: Sisters
Anti-Bonus Factor: Repairative Therapy
Bromance Status: To the End

Cover Story: Like It Says On the Tin

My daughter clocked this as a book about a transgender person after looking at the cover for two seconds. Nothing much else to say, except 'Kim Fu' may be the shortest name for an FYA author to date.

The Deal:

Peter Huang is a first generation Chinese-Canadian and only boy in a family of four kids. His father expects him to be a manly, Western son. This is a guy who brags how his own father died in a mine explosion back in China, like a real man. When Peter is involved in an incident where a neighborhood bully yanks down a girl's panties, Peter's father is secretly proud.

The thing is, Peter doesn't feel comfortable playing sports. Or fighting. Or having a penis. Or being a male.

Peter identifies as female. Peter doesn't want to grow up to be a man. Peter wants to be a glamorous woman like Audrey Hepburn. A wife someday. A mother.

Not exactly something Peter can share with the world. Hell, when Peter's father catches her cleaning house in her mother's apron, he burns the apron and forces Peter to eat some of the cinders.

We follow Peter from her birth in the 1970s to modern times as she tries to come to grips with her identity as a woman and tries to find her place in the world.

Drinking Buddy: 1990s Montreal

Peter longs to be a chef. After spending a hitch working at her town's only three-star restaurant, Peter takes off for the heady anarchy of Montreal and the exciting world of food service. With no one looking over her shoulder, Peter may have a chance to finally be the woman she truly is. And Montreal is a great city for a girl to find herself. Or lose herself, if she's not careful. But then she meets a guy named John. A guy who might know what she's going through. Exactly what she's going through.

Testosterone/Estrogen Level: High

It takes Peter a while to come to grips with who she is inside. And the 80s/90s were not the best time to come out as transgender. With no one to confide in, Peter has to make her own way. She falls in with a middle-aged woman named Barbara who's attracted to Peter's perceived exoticness as an Asian. Peter simply enjoys laying with her and pretending Barbara's breasts are her own. Her three sisters are having issues themselves, none of them growing into the doctors and housewives their father expected. And Peter has hopeless crushes on men who might just understand her...or might murder her.

Talky Talk: Who Are You?

Peter had a hell of a voice. Her longing to be a wife, and even a mother, was heartbreaking. When she inherits some of her sisters' old things from storage, she sets up a little nursery with some discarded baby dolls, just so she can play mommy. And when male pattern baldness hits, well, to some of us, it's just annoying. To her, however, it's just a reminder that she'll never be the young woman she is in her soul.

I would have liked a little more background as to what was going on in the world, such as the specific dates things were happening. This book takes place from Peter's childhood to her late thirties and I was often confused as to how old she was and what year it was supposed to be.

All in all, a hopeful book about the life of a transgender person, with lots of hedonism and sex.

Bonus Factor: Sisters

We occasionally slip into the point of view of Peter's sisters. Adele drops out of college, moves to Germany, and lives in a commune. Helen becomes a California lawyer before having a kind of a breakdown. Bonnie, the youngest, becomes a stripper in Montreal. Each of these women could be a book unto themselves. And it's gratifying to see their father's dreams of obedient daughters go up in smoke. It's also nice that they all support Peter, even when they realize there's actually four sisters.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Reparative Therapy

So Peter hooks up with a woman named Claire. She used to be a sinful lesbian, but now, through the power of prayer and ice cold baths, she's totally a heterosexual! She and Peter spend their afternoons passing out literature in the gay district, and their evenings watching old movies and baking cookies. Claire suggests they get married and have kids. I mean, they both want a family, so why not? Sure, they'd have to deny everything they know about themselves forever. And yes, maybe Claire has the occassional relapse and goes cruising at the same lesbian bars she condemned during the daytime. But hell, if they just pray really hard, they can do it. Right? Right?

Bromance Status: To the End

This book is going on my ever-increasing list of great books about transgender people. Solidarity forever.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor Montreal Canadiens tickets for writing this review.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.