The Name I Call Myself
The Name I Call Myself
I am twelve.
I don’t have any real friends.
Everyone calls me Eddie.
My dad catches me kissing Nick Jonas.
It’s just a poster, but he yells at me anyway.
Growing up is hard. And for Ari it’s even harder. They don’t feel like they fit into the world as a boy, or as a girl, but rather as both. This feeling of internal unrest leaves Ari constantly unsettled and at odds with their parents, peers, and society as a whole. And although it may seem simplistic at the outset, the combination of words and images throughout the book ensure Ari is a fully developed and complex character.
Each page turn is a year in Ari’s life, from age six to eighteen. At the beginning of the book, Ari goes by Edward: “It is the name my parents gave me. But I call myself something else.” As the years progress, Ari chooses a new name and gains a more developed understanding of gender and fluidity. They also begin to confront the antagonists in their life, including their parents who, for many years, ensured that Ari conformed to gender norms and roles.
The illustrations that accompany each page turn show Ari’s insecurities leaping from within to take over the world around them. In one spread, for example, Ari wishes their acne would disappear, and so would their feelings of wanting to disappear, and in the accompanying illustration, Ari is seen close up on one half of the page, looking frightened, while a smaller version of them uses a pain roller to cover the acne, but the other half of the page shows the acne spreading onto the surrounding landscape, including a tree that Ari is trying to hide behind.
Using spare prose and colourful illustrations and backgrounds, Hasan Namir (author) and Cathryn John (illustrator) build a meaningful back-and-forth dialogue between text and image in order to explore what it means to be a nonbinary young person in a less-than-welcoming world focused on binaries and conformity.
Rob Bittner has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (Simon Fraser University) and is also a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. He loves reading a wide range of literature, but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.