God bless the Child by K. T. Leone (illustrated by Michael Mena) is a book that is so poignant and touching, it will tear at your heart strings and move you to tears. In part, it is about the physical and emotional scars of child abuse, but it also carries with it an interesting overlay of gender identity issues. The "child abuse" portion of this book is the more significant of the two areas, and the one needing immediate triage, as it is a life-threatening condition. Even after the dust settles and the child is safe, there are nightmares and PTSD to deal with, along with the issue of trust in forging new and loving relationships. This novel does a wonderful job of depicting the ups and downs of the burgeoning and often agonizing relationship between the scarred child and his foster parents.
The gender identity issue, although not immediately critical to the well-being of the child, is no less vexing. Many individuals who have a gender identity problem invariably wonder what was at the source of it, often looking for a "smoking gun." Was it in utero flooding of testosterone or estrogen? Was it genetically ordained? Was it an environmental factor that was at the root of the problem or, perhaps, a combination of these areas? Of course, after many years of searching, the affected person generally gives up their quest as futile, and hopefully accepts and/or begins to deal with the issue in some constructive manner. In the final analysis, does it really matter? Can one begin to embrace and accept the person who they really are, regardless of the pressures surrounding them?
That said, this reviewer cannot help but notice that Jeremy's initial foray into wearing female attire was inadvertently triggered by the good intentions of his well-meaning foster mother. We wonder whether there was a predisposition already there, or if Melissa's innocent desire to ease Jeremy's pain was the impetus for his affinity for the "comfort" of wearing feminine clothing. In any case, Jeremy's foster parents and their affectionate and loving dog go a long way toward assisting him to facilitate this self-acceptance, also learning who they are in the process. Having just read 56 Sanchez by Rene Jax, I want to point out that his fine book is another example of a novel that must have been penned by an author having wonderful and intimate familiarity with police policies and procedures. It is a very realistic and exciting effort and the authors should be commended.
[Reviewed by Samuel]