The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation

by Jodie Patterson

Hardcover, 2019





Ballantine Books (2019), 352 pages


"Jodie Patterson is the mother of five children, including her ten-year-old transgender son Penelope, the catalyst for the author's reexamination of identity within her own dynamic household--and the wider world. This inspiring and highly personal debut memoir goes on to examine Jodie's extended families' African American experiences with racism and civil rights, and her own coming of age in New York City in the 1970s and 80s, and later on as a wife, mother, and activist. With a novelist's sense of artful structure and pacing, Jodie turns her lens on a range of subjects--from the women who raised her and provided strength and comfort, all the while going against cultural norms and gender expectations, to her own children, who acted as a vehicle for Jodie's own growth and ultimately her acceptance of her very diverse family. The result is an exquisite study in transformation, identity, courage, and love"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member herzogm
The Bold World is a very important story of a mother with a child who from a very early age struggled with gender issues and by three was able to articulate that "people think I'm a girl but I'm not, I'm a boy." Jodie Patterson writes evocatively about her child and her advocacy to create a healthy environment for him at home, school, extended family, and recreational outlets. Unfortunately, that is only the second half of the book. I found the first half quite a slog as she recounts in minute detail her own childhood in a somewhat dysfunctional family and her struggles in young adulthood to find herself and to achieve some balance in her life. I think I would have preferred two separate books.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookwormteri
I love this book, I love this family. When Jodie's child Penelope announces that she is not a girl, but a boy, Jodie must learn, along with her whole family what this means and how best to support her child.

Beautifully written and beautifully lived. She doesn't brush off Penelope, but instead researches and lives and teaches the best way she can. A wonderful book for anyone, but I think this book is a fantastic example of how a parent can support their child (especially when they are very young) when they come out as transgender. An inspiration.… (more)
LibraryThing member jennparm
The Bold World is a wonderful read, an interesting autobiography showing how the author’s journey as a Black woman embracing Black culture gave her a unique perspective, preparing her for the challenges that lay ahead of her. Her account of her formative years took up more of the narrative than I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The challenges she faces with her son Penelope are tough, as he stands firmly at an intersection of Black and Queer, and Patterson does not paint it as being easy - she speaks to the frustrations and the uncertainty they experience together. Her activism and advocacy stand on their own, but this book provides the backstory to the brave and unapologetic woman she truly is.… (more)
LibraryThing member KarenRendall
The Bold World tells the story of Jodie Patterson's life and her experiences as a mother of a transgender child. The memoir begins with Jodie's childhood and how her parents helped her develop a sense of her blackness and of herself. It continues into her adulthood before eventually delving into being a mother. Jodie's third child was born a girl, but always, even as an infant and toddler rebelled against the trappings of being a girl. At 3 years old, Penelope said to her mother, "I'm a boy, Mama." The rest of the book deals with Jodie's attempts to come to terms with Penelope's announcement and how to support him.

I struggled with the first half of the book, Jodie's childhood and early adulthood, because it felt like it had nothing to do with the reason I picked up the book, to learn about a mother's experiences with a transgender child. Once the book moved into Penelope and his life and how Jodie deals with that, it became much more engaging. I did find the discussions of how being a transgender parent and advocate was frowned upon by the black community quite interesting. It exposed me to a different aspect of black culture than I'd read about before.

I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
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LibraryThing member pwagner2
The Author is trying to navigate the world as a black woman with biracial children and a patriarchal family which is difficult enough. Then, toss in a transgender child. I think she handles everything gloriously. The writing style is easy to read and keeps your attention.
LibraryThing member MizPurplest
Patterson's writing is open and compelling but has such depth and paints a vivid picture of her life and the complexities of the situations she and her family found themselves in. She doesn't shy away from mistakes she made, but weaves every choice into the full story to bring their very human, flawed to perfection, family to life for the reader. The emotions in this book are real and raw, and the hope she leaves us with is bright.… (more)
LibraryThing member dallenbaugh
This book is an interesting well written narrative of a black woman negotiating her way in the world as she relates to the strong women in her family who inspire her to tackle each set back in her life as a challenge to overcome. She comes from a relatively privileged background, but like all of us she suffers with ups and downs in her life as she combats marriage difficulties, raising 5 children, and finally raising a transgendered child. Her deepening commitment to her child's development and mental health lead Jodie to an expanding awareness of gender issues and the need to be an advocate on this important topic. Also she is not afraid to reveal her weaknesses and her need for family to support her as much as possible.… (more)
LibraryThing member Bookish59
Biography and history of a remarkable woman and her family. She focuses on the strength, determination and resolve of her mother, grandmother and great grandmother. That inherited DNA helps define her identity, her solidity and softness, her energy, dreams and plans.

Jodie Patterson and older sister Ramona raised by a tough, smart and successful business owner father and a bright, beautiful mother; were encouraged, educated, and given opportunities many people don't get. Brought up to believe in themselves, their capabilities, their freedom to choose their paths in life. John Patterson had to be resilient and vigorous to succeed so he instilled these qualities in his daughters.

This book is about Jodie's life choices, her motivation to achieve and accomplish top notch goals through hard work at good jobs, and the amazing drive to be the best mother to her children. As most women know: this is not easily done. But Jodie is a perfectionist, doing so much for family, and for the folks she works for, always trying to live in the moment, and to the fullest. She doesn't want to let her mother, grandmother, great grandmother or her father down.

It should not be surprising how well she handles a unique challenge to her family; pushing to learn and implement the best approach. But... loving, well-intentioned Jodie pushes herself and her family too hard. She needs to stop and re-group.

Read this winner of a book to learn how Jodie maneuvers through rough waters to get her family safely across.

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LibraryThing member JSBancroft
After reading the first several chapters of The Bold World, I was sure this was going to be another story of a female person of color facing the system and triumphing over it. Which is not a bad thing, and I believe such stories have tremendous value. But Jodie Patterson's story takes a turn when she must accept the truth that one of her children is trapped in a gender identity that is untrue to his true nature. Patterson takes the determination she has developed over years of navigating education, business, and relationships to educate herself and those around her about gender identity, while providing all of her children the love and support they need.… (more)
LibraryThing member readergirliz
I received this book as part of LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

While this book began a little slow for me, it picked up very quickly. Although I am not a woman of color, I could empathize with Patterson's struggle to be everything to everybody. As a woman, I often feel like I need to be perfect my professional life and personal life and I cannot fall short or else I am a failure. Patterson's story is the feeling times 100, as she is trying to have a satisfying professional career (which involves many failures and successes) and raise 5 children (one of whom announces very early in his life that he is transgender) and sustain a loving relationship with her husband (who half-jokes that he is "at the bottom of the list).

I appreciated Patterson's honesty that doing all of these is exhausting and frankly, not sustainable as is shown in one of the saddest parts of the memoir. I appreciate that she talks about feeling like you can conquer the world in one moment but that you completely emotionally fall apart in the next.

Patterson's writing is excellent. I felt like I was immersed in her world, and never felt like I was being talked down to, even though I am not as informed of the experiences of women of color as I'd like to be. I was always compelled to keep reading to see where her journey took her. I will update this post in a few days, as I am only 3/4 of the way through (but my review was due today!).
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Original language


Physical description

352 p.; 5.8 inches


0399179011 / 9780399179013


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