Saturday, January 31, 2015

For Today I am a Boy by Kim Fu

This is a really interesting novel about Peter Huang, the only son of Chinese immigrant parents living in small town Ontario.  As the third of four children, Peter is revered by his father merely for being a boy.  But from a young age Peter relates more to his sisters and wants to be one of them.  They periodically indulge his desire to dress in their clothes, and his father, who suspects he is "soft" tries to strengthen him and mocks him for crying more than his sisters.  Peter's father is a philandering tyrant who tries to control his whole family.  One by one his children abandon the home - and only one following the path he decreed for them.  The eldest, Adele, escapes to Europe where she works as a nanny, the second daughter, Helen, studies hard then gets into law school in California where she follows the path expected of her (with the help of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications).  Peter becomes a chef and the youngest, Bonnie, turns a life of partying into a job as a stripper.

Peter's sisters and even his parents, guess at his secret, but it is not openly discussed until, in Montreal, as an adult, he meets other LGBT people and realizes he is not totally alone.  This allows him to explore how he really wants to live.

Though there is not a lot of action, this is a moving portrayal of a troubled boy who is totally uncomfortable with the identity foisted upon his at birth.  His internal struggles as well as those with his family and friends make for a fascinating read.  The author approaches the topic with sensitivity and powerful descriptive language.

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