cover image For Today I Am a Boy

For Today I Am a Boy

Kim Fu. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-544-03472-3

It’s a marker of how quickly things change that a novel detailing the thoughts, hopes, and fears of a boy who wishes he would have been born a girl feels like it covers familiar terrain. But even if some of the markers of Peter Huang’s trouble with his body—the experimentation with his sister’s makeup, for instance, or the fascination with women’s self-presentation—are things we’ve seen before, debut author Fu’s sharp eye and the book’s specificity of place (the Huangs live in small-town Canada, where Peter’s father does whatever it takes to fit in and the rest of his family lies to him) provide freshness. Peter grows up; watches his favorite sister go off to college; connives with Bonnie, the sister nearest to him in age (he cooks the meals she’s supposed to be making, while she learns to “wear heels” and “not look twelve”); gets a restaurant job; and plots his escape to Montreal, the city of possibility. Once there, he tries to find a way to have intimate relationships, and eventually, painfully, comes to see that he doesn’t have to be the thing he never was. Although the focus is always Peter, Fu is adept at depicting the shifting alliances between him and his sisters, and at revealing how being an outsider shapes Peter’s expectations and options, which adds another layer to the story. (Jan.)