Do Not Read “My Brother’s Name is Jessica”: A PSA

Hello all.

This is a non-review because I haven’t read this book and have no intention of doing so. In a way, this is a PSA.

Honestly, I’ve been very disappointed with much of the bookish community with the reaction to a blatantly transphobic book and author. Partially, I think it’s because everyone loves this author — hell, I liked him up until this point — so they don’t want to say much.

But, I am. (Because I can’t shut up and I like putting my 2 cents in when possible.)

I’m referring to My Brother’s Name is Jessica by John Boyne.

He wrote a transphobic book that’s coming out today. He’s been telling ownvoices readers that they’re wrong and that he’s not transphobic, all while doubling down by writing a transphobic article.

So, before I put what I wrote on Goodreads here, I want to be very clear. Chantel and I have spoken about this since we still run things by one another even though she’s not a big presence on the blog at the moment. She agreed that this is something we both want to stand for.

Therefore: If I see you reading/reviewing this book on my dashboard, you will be unfollowed. Perhaps you think that you’re just wanting to join in on the book and decide for yourself what you think. Good for you. I still do not want to see people reading, and perhaps defending, a book that has every single trans reviewer saying that it’s blatantly transphobic. I have said this on Instagram for followers there and it will be the same on the blog. Also, this statement is the same on Goodreads.

That being said, here’s my non-review of this book.

I have not read this.

Wanted to get that out there first, you know?

Second, I’m transgender.

And I hate that title. It sounds so ignorant. Based on reviews, perhaps that’s the point of it, but I hate it. Seriously. It comes across as so transphobic and ignorant. It sounds like it should have been published in the early 2000s when it was a teensy bit more acceptable. (Doesn’t excuse it, but it was okay.)

As an ownvoices person, that title alone means I probably won’t read this book. Breaks my heart because I enjoy this author, but, seriously, it just sounds so fucking bad. I’m tired of books that other the trans community.

It’s even worse since I found out about this book on International Transgender Day of Visibility. This is shit that makes us “other” and “novel”. We’re weird and special and, even if we present as a gender identity other than what we were born as, we are still, inherently, the gender that we don’t identify as anymore.

Wow. Writing this review has made me switch my own shelf from “maybe” to “never”. I can’t bring myself to read a book that sounds harmful to the community. These are my own thoughts, too. Just reading that title was triggering to me.

17 thoughts on “Do Not Read “My Brother’s Name is Jessica”: A PSA

  1. I agree with you Caidyn! I definitely won’t be supporting this book. The author also mocked people on twitter who were tweeting at him, and was generally horrible to anyone questioning his decision to write this book. Also, that title is disgusting and it’s so clear that the book was written for cis people who like to congratulate themselves for being “woke”. I read someone’s review of the book on a twitter thread and the book sounds as bad as we think: I’m pretty sure at the conclusion of the book, the MC’s sister dresses up in male clothing to save the day — so we have a trans person essentially going back in the closet at the book’s end. Horrible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! How terrible. I guess I can understand an author defending their work because, well writing is not easy. However, if everyone is telling you that it’s not a good idea, especially those of which it’s subject matter is about, then maybe you should listen and revise. I stand with you. I won’t be reading this book. Good luck on your quest of warning the book community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jenn! If you look on Goodreads, literally every trans person is saying it’s bad while the only good reviews are from cis reviewers. Which… isn’t a good look. I’m fine with authors defending their work as well, but he’s been attacking people and, now, has deleted Twitter. Which is fine by me!

      Thank you so much for the support!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In discussing this book and the controversy happening around it with some nonbinary friends on bookstagram I realized I wasn’t following any trans bookstagrammers (to my knowledge). Google brought me here and I’m so glad. I’m sorry this has caused harm to you and your community. It’s hard to believe (and also NOT hard to believe) through the long process of writing, editing, marketing, and publishing no one checked Boyne or the team behind this book. It’s unfortunate he has had a really shitty reaction to being called out for his transphobia as well. I’m glad this has been so openly and loudly discussed online, but I wish I saw more bookstagrammers talking about it. Admittedly, I’m on/off stories (where most of the action seems to happen) so maybe these conversations are happening without me being aware. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment!

      It disappoints me that this book was greenlighted by the publishers because it’s by a popular author. A popular, white, cis-male author. I’ve been trying to talk more about it, but I’m rarely surprised by this. There’s a huge burst for 1-2 days on trans-related stories — this is just a worldwide trend I’ve seen, too — then… nothing. I wish that bookstagram spoke out more as well. Bookstagram is very good at addressing race and gender issues (using the male-female binary), but nothing like this. I’ve only spoken to a few people about it on there thanks to the story I put out about it today.

      I’m glad that there has been a larger reaction to this (mainly Twitter) and I hope that, in the future, something like this doesn’t happen again. Still, I’m not holding my breath.


  4. Obviously, this doesn’t fall within my usual reading genres 🔪☠ …so I would likely never read this anyway. But I’m always on the hunt for books with trans characters/themes for my trans stepson. He’s a bit of a booknerd, so I want him to have a selection of books on his shelf that give him some representation. I’ll remember to avoid this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awesome! I mean, When The Moon Was Ours features a transboy teen. Then there’s the classic Parrotfish, but I don’t remember if it aged well. Luna didn’t age well. Uhm, I remember reading I Am J but can’t remember if it aged well either. Then, there’s Becoming a Visible Man which is a fantastic memoir about a transman activist!

      Just some recs that /are/ good.


  5. Thanks for posting this. It wasn’t a book that I’d heard of before, but I will definitely be avoiding it now. His article seems like a classic case of ‘I’m not transphobic because I have a friend who is trans and therefore I can say whatever I want’ which is just super gross.

    I’m thinking of doing an LGBTQ book recommendations post soon, and would love to include more books in the list, so please let me know [anyone who comments on the post] some great alternatives to this garbage book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, exactly! Or the whole “My best friend is black!” kind of thing for racism. It is just gross and sad to see, especially since he’s in the LGBT+ community. I know there’s a lot of ignorance in it, but it still is a big shame.

      Hm. Melanie at meltotheany probably has some fantastic ones if you look around her site! But, I know that I’ve heard If I’m Not Your Girl is a great one (it’s on my mental TBR for next month). George is another good one. I’ll have to think and ask around some!


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