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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Once a Girl, Always a Boy: A Family Memoir of a Transgender Journey is a nonfiction memoir written by Jo Ivester and based on the video journals of her son, Jeremy Ivester. Jo and her husband, Jon, were not at all surprised when their third child, called Emily at the time, turned out to be actively involved in sports. Both his older brother and sister were into sports. While Jo and her husband were somewhat surprised when Jeremy didn’t go for the girly stuff, as his older sister did, but instead gravitated for the boy stuff just like his older brother, Ben, they delighted in his choices. And when they were both growing up, Ben spent hours coaching him. So, while Jeremy wasn’t viewed as a boy, he was able to do the boy things he loved and enjoy the friendship and camaraderie of being on and competing in athletic teams. Things all started to change, however, when he and his teammates turned nine. Jo began to realize that Jeremy’s situation was not like her own childhood had been after all. Jeremy, who decided for a while to be called Em, was not outgrowing a predilection for being a tomboy. When he was 19 years old, he happened to be watching an MTV reality show called True Life. It featured a transgender man who described his situation as having been born in a girl’s body and the show chronicled his transition. Watching as he spoke was a watershed moment for Jeremy.
Once a Girl, Always a Boy is a beautifully written account of a transgender boy’s early life and the family who stood beside him all the way. Ivester seamlessly weaves the contributions of her husband, Jeremy’s siblings and sister-in-law, and Jeremy’s video accounts in this honest and moving work. This memoir helps the reader realize that the confusion and turmoil that is puberty becomes even more soul altering when experienced by a transgender child. I was so impressed by Jeremy Ivester’s decision to work with his mother on this story. It would seem that the primary goal of going through surgery and hormone replacement therapy is to be able to live in one’s correct gender without having questions raised about genes or birth gender. His openness in this work is a marvelous gift for future transgender and gender-questioning kids, just as his parents’ support and involvement in being actively involved in transgender rights offer parents a splendid example of how to learn about and support something that might seem so out of the ordinary -- even while it seems to make so much sense. Once a Girl, Always a Boy: A Family Memoir of a Transgender Journey is a stunning and heartfelt story, and the pictures the author includes in the book make the journey feel even more real. Reading this book was a profound and remarkable experience as I was getting to know the Ivester family through their words. It’s most highly recommended.