The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation

Identity -
Transgender -
A bold statement and a lot to think about in The Bold World
Jodie Patterson
Random House
Ballantine Books
Publication Date
Jan 29, 2019
Number of Pages

Image: The Bold WorldThe Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation is the autobiography of Jodie Patterson, a Black mom of five whose toddler turns to her one day and says “...everyone thinks I’m a girl, Mama – and I’m not.” 

The first part of this story focuses on Patterson’s own upbringing, her journey towards self-discovery, and her experiences facing dual discrimination for being Black and a woman in America. The second part covers the first handful of years of her transgender son Penelope’s life, as Patterson attempts to find a parenting balance through protection, empowerment, and activism. 

Patterson writes with honesty and passion, exploring her personal navigation of the multidimensionality of gender and identity. She presents each of her labels – woman, Black, Christian, trans activist, parent – and how these collide, complement, and disrupt each other,

lamenting how our need to label ourselves and one another limits our potential as humans. 

Throughout the story, Patterson grapples with how to challenge her loved ones’ perceptions of identity and gender in order to build a strong support network for her son. She battles entrenched conservative perspectives, meditates on her own reflex reactions and thoughts, and works hard to openly introduce these concepts to her children. 

Patterson reminds us that while gender and identity are complex (because humans are complex) they’re also very simple – it comes down to caring for others and wanting to support them, wanting them to be proud of who they are and comfortable within themselves. 

Writing about her relationship with her parents, and then about her relationship with her son, Patterson shows how the desire to protect and empower can smother and block a person’s ability to discover and celebrate who they are. 

In exploring her own journey, Patterson presents an intriguing commentary on the parent-child relationship and asks the reader to reflect on their own identity – whether parts of it have been muted by loved ones or the wider society – and challenges us to free those parts of ourselves. 

Readers will find moments of clarity and inspiration within these pages. And if your own upbringing doesn’t mirror the cultural or identity narratives explored then you’ll likely discover a new sense of humility and awareness – a gift that is vital especially in this time where anti-diversity narratives speak so loudly.

About the Contributor

Alice Rich is a freelance writer and a whole bunch of other things. She loves light and space art, libraries, fire spinning, slacklining, plants and the fact we're all made of stardust. She currently lives in Aotearoa / NZ and aspires to go nomadic.