Reviewed by Beverly Slapin
Since I wrote and published our review of Julián Is a Mermaid (see it here), there has been much online discussion about this book. Dr. Laura Jiménez has just published a personal and profound essay — entitled Trans People Aren’t Mythical Creatures — and, in the hopes that her writing will generate more of this important discussion, I asked her for permission to reprint portions of her essay here and she generously consented.
In research we often provide what is referred to as a positionality statement. It helps our readers understand who we are, how our experiences and identities effect our understandings of the subject we are writing about. Positionality statements help avoid the fiction that research is neutral. In the age of #OwnVoices I have come to realize, or maybe I have come to admit to the realization, that I believe an author’s identity, community, and experiences inform the work they produce.
Literacy is a social act, and I find that my reading of the world is better when done in collaboration with others who do not share my view of the world, my history, or my identity. So, I talked to teachers who are Dominican, to librarians, and finally, to a trans girl named Indigo.
Had I known then — when I read and loved and wrote about Julián Is a Mermaid — what I know now, I would not have published the review as I wrote it. What I felt then was the power and love that Julián’s abuela felt in encouraging her young grandson to grow into his authentic self. This was apparent to me in the first few pages in which Julián looks questioningly at a picture book of mermaids that his abuela had given him. As the story progresses, Julián comes out to his abuela, becoming more and more secure in himself and how he “fits” into his community. That, to me, was what empowerment looked like.
But Dr. Jiménez saw something that I hadn’t seen. Continue reading.
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Published by Candlewick Press on 2018
Reading Level: Early Childhood, Grades 1-2
Review Source: De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.
While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he's seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes -- and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love's author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.