Vaneeta Sandhu, Psy.D., is a professor in the Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology program at Adler University’s Vancouver Campus. Her research interests include quality of life for individuals with chronic illnesses, patient outcomes for integrated treatment services, social determinants of health, and community approaches to public health issues. Among her activities at Adler, Dr. Sandhu serves on the University’s Common Book Program Committee. Each year the Common Book Program selects a novel to develop the Adler community by creating dialogue across multiple constituencies on issues related to social justice and social responsibility.
In “For Today I Am A Boy”, author Kim Fu tells the story of Peter Huang, a first-generation Chinese-Canadian growing up in Ontario, while awakening to his transgender identity. The character’s complexity piqued the interest of Adler’s Common Book Program committee, which this year focused on selecting a book that would facilitate exploration of social justice themes in a Canadian context to help bridge the different national cultures that comprise Adler University.
Fu’s debut novel explores themes of gender identity, acculturation and assimilation, the model minority, Chinese cultures, Western masculinity, and patriarchy, among others. Importantly, this complex intersectionality challenges our culture’s understanding of identity as compartmentalized, developing one aspect at a time. This is especially true of the dominant narrative assigned to transgender people.
As we all look to take a break from academic literature, “For Today I Am A Boy” presents a great opportunity to engage with literature and story as a means to reflect on classroom material and learning. Peter’s journey, told through Fu’s sensitive and insightful prose, addresses one of Adler’s central academic themes—that of an individual navigating complex sociocultural contexts in search of the authentic self.
I also encourage faculty members to introduce these social justice themes in their classroom discussions and use this book as a teaching tool to facilitate difficult dialogues. For example, Peter Huang could be a case vignette in courses that encourage students to examine the systems and structures that contribute to an individual’s, and to a community’s, health and well-being. This book can also be used to spark deep conversation and thinking about the family system, its role in identity development and attitude-behavior consistency, as well as the nature and definition of gender dysphoria as outlined in the DSM-5.
I look forward to engaging with students, staff, and faculty members about their experience of reading “For Today I Am A Boy”. Happy reading!