Peter Huang lives under the shadow of his father, a man who insists Peter must learn to shave his face when he is barely eight, and who approves of Peter’s supposed involvement in a group of bullies who molest a little girl on the playground. But Peter himself knows he is that girl, a girl who escapes once a day by dressing in a frilly apron and cooking for the family. Until his father burns the apron and insists that Peter eat the ashes.
For Today I Am A Boy is an odyssey through the psychological landscape of a young woman desperate to emerge from her gender dysphoria into her womanhood, but blocked at every turn. She’s blocked by other kids on the playground, by cruel lovers, by rape, by gay “recovery ministries,” and ultimately by members of the LGBTQ community themselves, who are so comfortable with their own status, acroymns, and assumptions that they cannot be present to Peter’s particular range of experience.
Fu’s novel is lyrical with spare language and haunting images, and she’s given Peter a clarion voice. She’s also managed to avoid the trap of creating a “before and after story” more appropriate to a cis-gender audience than her trans* character. Instead, she’s chosen to show Peter’s inner life with the kind of painstaking detail that evokes profound compassion, giving readers a chance to climb into Peter’s skin and walk around in it “for today” while Peter is a “boy.”