Written by: Johnathan Branfman
Illustrated by: Julie Benbassat
For ages: 7-11
Topics Covered: Gender, Sexuality, Trans Experience, Family, Discrimination (Transphobia, Homophobia, Sexism) Privilege, Intersectionality, Allyship, Attraction & Romance, Friendship
This little book hopped off the shelf and into Lee’s hands like it was meant to be! In just 73 short, beautifully illustrated pages, author Johnathan Branfman and illustrator Julie Benbassat have created the guide that I wish I had had when I was young. In very clear and sensitive language, Bronfman outlines the basics of X and Y chromosomes, but then goes a step beyond to talk about people with any variety of chromosomes, matter-of-factly stating “not everyone is born with a body that fits these expectations of male and female…people who aren’t male or female are called intersex” (16-17). Later chapters (which are short and to the point, averaging out at 10 pages or less) also make space for cis and trans gender identities, while also pointing out “some people don’t identify as either boys or girls. Many people who feel this way identify as gender non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or gender fluid” (24)
You Be You effortlessly and explicitly includes many intersectional identities that rarely find a place in an introductory book for this age group, (not just featuring disabled people in illustrations but calling out ableism in the text) but the wording never comes across as heavy handed, a large part of that due to Bronfman’s experience as a summer camp counselor. The text is engaging and does not have the “parental lecture” quality that some early-childhood books on “tough subjects” can have. You Be You shows the reader, whether they are a parent or child, that there is no reason to be afraid of these subjects! Honesty, compassion and affirmation are the backbone of these chapters, especially the fantastic section that covers privilege and intersectionality.
And it’s not just the words that blew me away-the illustrations feature depictions of tricky subjects such as privilege and allyship in a way that I have not seen before in books for children or adults! Using the colors to represent discrimination (red) and allyship/compassion (blue) the emotions surrounding each experience are clear and comprehensible for readers of any age.
I just can’t say enough about this book-it should be available to everyone and anyone. The inclusion and true diversity represented inside the pages make this a must-read for anyone trying to learn more about identity and how to talk about challenging concepts like intersectionality and privilege with compassionate but realistic language. We hope you find it as revelatory as we did, and spread it in your circles!
Jonathan Branfman, Ph.D. is a Gender Studies researcher and children’s book author. His work focuses on LGBTQIA diversity and social justice. His book, You Be You!: The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family, is an illustrated children’s book for ages 7-11 that makes gender identity, sexual orientation, and family diversity easy to explain to children. Throughout the book, kids learn that there are many kinds of people in the world and that diversity is something to be celebrated. It covers gender, romantic orientation, discrimination, intersectionality, privilege, and how to stand up for what’s right.
Jonathan can be contacted via his website at https://jonathanbranfman.com!
Julie Benbassat is an illustrator and recent RISD graduate. You can find her in Brooklyn, NY eating soft tofu stew. Her work delights in the eccentricities of the natural world, indulges in the fantastical, and highlights the bridge between the cute and the horrific. In spare moments, she relishes reading sassy nonfiction, hiking wooded expanses, and watching bad (but good) horror movies.