“The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation” by Jodie Patterson— Family and Self

Patterson, Jodie. The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation”, Penguin Random House, 2019. Family and Self Amos Lassen Jodie Patterson’s inspiration for “The Bold World” came from her transgender son. She explores identity, gender, race, and authenticity to tell the real-life story of a family’s history and transformation. We realize as we read that sometimes it is necessary to unlearn what we have been taught. Patterson grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1970s. She learned early on to engage with her community for strength and comfort. “But then in 2009 this mother of five had her world turned upside down. Realizing that her definition of community wasn’t wide enough for her own child’s needs, Patterson forced the world wide open.”
This is the story of a mother reshaping her attitudes and beliefs and those of people in her community. She did so in order to meet the needs of her transgender son, Penelope and she opened the minds of everyone in her family who up until then totally and absolutely refused to conform. Patterson introduces us to the Southern women who came before her—the mother, grandmothers, and aunts who raised and fortified her, while at the same time challenging cultural norms and gender expectations. She shares her family’s history—particularly incidents within the Black community around sexism, racism, and civil rights. We learn about her children, who provide a way for Jodie Patterson’s own growth and acceptance of her diverse family, and her experiences as a wife, mother, and, eventually, activist. We gain an intimate portrait and an exquisite study of identity, courage, and love. Patterson’s unstoppable drive to change the world will is inspiring and “reflects our own individual strength and tenacity, our very real fears, and, most of all, our singular ability to transform despite the odds.”

Patterson makes a case for respecting everyone’s gender identity by way of showing how she came to accept her son. We also see the permanent work of social justice. Patterson presents us with a blueprint for what it means to be a champion for our children and encourages us to be bold enough to let our children lead the way, especially when we don’t have answers. Patterson makes a case for respecting everyone’s gender identity by way of showing how she came to accept Penelope, her son. Patterson encourages us to seek out our blind spots—to see who we can’t see and to hear what we can’t hear.  This is, above all, a story about self-determination, and it is important for anyone seeking love in its highest form. Patterson shares recollections and poignant insights from her own transformative journey and inspires us all to remember and to become the people we are meant to be. Her unconditional love for her son Penelope is felt throughout her book. We gain great advice on how to raise a strong black family, how to value and celebrate marriage-merging of cultures, and how to instill confidence in a transgender child. Also an interesting and honest look at difficulties the author faced in both her marriages and variegated career; and finally her transformation from a young mom running a beauty business who exaggerates gender norms in her early parenting (“pretty girl” “pretty girl” “pink and purple” “pink tutu” “head-to-toe pink” “plastic dress-up high heels” “hyper-boy, tough-boy, assertive-boy”) into a champion advocating for transgender rights for her fifth child. 

Patterson talks about the influence of her family growing up and learning what it meant to be black and a woman. She was influenced by cultural norms and had to fight through some of them to become who she wanted to be. She was able to gain the strength and determination to do what he does. She also has a lot to say about motherhood and her different experiences and growing pains in raising her kids and having a blended family. She shares openly about her struggles and growth with raising a transgendered child and she pulls it all together some parallels between growing up with a rebellious sister who took most of her parent’s attention and the energy and attention required to help her son navigate an unfriendly world. This is a memoir about Patterson’s  personal transformation throughout life but it is about so much more.

Leave a Reply