Transgender teen star Jazz Jennings to publish a memoir
Searching for a “memoir” on Amazon yields at least 130,000 hits. There is such an abundance that the Internet’s list-makers have assembled roundups for “most insightful cancer memoirs” and “most gripping addiction memoirs” and “favorite memoirs of loss.” But a new book coming from advocate and reality star Jazz Jennings will have a home on what remains pretty empty bookshelf: memoirs about being a transgender girl written before the author’s 16th birthday.
“This book reveals many rarely shared memories from my past that have molded me into the teenager I am today,” 15-year-old Jennings exclusively told TIME in a statement. “I hope that my challenges and triumphs will resonate with readers of all ages, whether they are transgender or not.”
The most important part of the book’s title—Being Jazz: My Life As a (Transgender) Teen—may be the punctuation. Yes, there is a finely wielded colon, but the parentheses echo a message that is central to Jennings’ TLC docu-series, I Am Jazz. In the opening shots of the first episode (the second season will air in 2016), an unseen interviewer asks Jazz how she would describe herself.
She answers: “I am a teenage girl. I’m also a soccer player. I’m also an artist. I’d like to think I’m funny …”
On the list goes until she gets to the buried lead, at least in the sense that it is the main justification for making the show: “I’m also transgender,” she says. “And I’m proud of that.” Much like most cisgender people wouldn’t start out explaining who they are by avowing to be cisgender, Jennings and her producers make it clear that this quality is part of her identity and not vice versa.
There will, of course, be details revealed in this book that wouldn’t show up in the average high school soccer player’s bildungsroman. Though Jazz was assigned male at birth, she has identified as female since she was a toddler, transitioning at the age of five with the support of her parents. In 2014, another author used Jennings’ experiences growing up in South Florida as the basis for a children’s book that actress Laverne Cox called an “essential tool” for teachers and parents who want or need to tackle the subject of gender identity with a kid.
Still, the title makes it clear that this is will not be a prurient tell-all focusing on why Jennings is different: it will be one of many ongoing attempts by LGBT advocates to show that being transgender doesn’t make someone a freak—even it makes them a type of normal that many people have never encountered. “Jazz is a remarkable young woman who has helped to foster major changes in the way the public views the transgender community, while also being an average teen,” says the book’s editor, Emily Easton. (TIME has listed Jennings’ twice on an annual list of ‘Most Influential Teens.’)
Whether they’ve be inspired by Jennings’ story, the zeitgeist or the publicity machine that comes with a TLC reality show, publisher Random House is betting that the book will sell. The first print run will be 150,000 copies, which go on sale June 7, with preorders available as of Jan. 26.