counter create hit She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders

Availability: Ready to download

The exuberant memoir of a man named James who became a woman named Jenny. She’s Not There is the story of a person changing genders, the story of a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret; above all, it is a love story. By turns funny and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the remarkable territory that lies between men and women, examines changing The exuberant memoir of a man named James who became a woman named Jenny. She’s Not There is the story of a person changing genders, the story of a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret; above all, it is a love story. By turns funny and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the remarkable territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. She’s Not There is a portrait of a loving marriage—the love of James for his wife, Grace, and, against all odds, the enduring love of Grace for the woman who becomes her "sister," Jenny. To this extraordinary true story, Boylan brings the humorous, fresh voice that won her accolades as one of the best comic novelists of her generation. With her distinctive and winning perspective, She’s Not There explores the dramatic outward changes and unexpected results of life as a woman: Jenny fights the urge to eat salad, while James consumed plates of ribs; gone is the stability of "one damn mood, all the damn time." While Boylan’s own secret was unusual, to say the least, she captures the universal sense of feeling uncomfortable, out of sorts with the world, and misunderstood by her peers. Jenny is supported on her journey by her best friend, novelist Richard Russo, who goes from begging his friend to "Be a man" (in every sense of the word) to accepting her as an attractive, buoyant woman. "The most unexpected thing," Russo writes in his Afterword to the book, "is in how Jenny’s story we recognize our shared humanity." As James evolves into Jennifer in scenes that are by turns tender, startling, and witty, a marvelously human perspective emerges on issues of love, sex, and the fascinating relationship between our physical and our intuitive selves. Through the clear eyes of a truly remarkable woman, She’s Not There provides a new window on the often confounding process of accepting ourselves.


Compare

The exuberant memoir of a man named James who became a woman named Jenny. She’s Not There is the story of a person changing genders, the story of a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret; above all, it is a love story. By turns funny and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the remarkable territory that lies between men and women, examines changing The exuberant memoir of a man named James who became a woman named Jenny. She’s Not There is the story of a person changing genders, the story of a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret; above all, it is a love story. By turns funny and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the remarkable territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. She’s Not There is a portrait of a loving marriage—the love of James for his wife, Grace, and, against all odds, the enduring love of Grace for the woman who becomes her "sister," Jenny. To this extraordinary true story, Boylan brings the humorous, fresh voice that won her accolades as one of the best comic novelists of her generation. With her distinctive and winning perspective, She’s Not There explores the dramatic outward changes and unexpected results of life as a woman: Jenny fights the urge to eat salad, while James consumed plates of ribs; gone is the stability of "one damn mood, all the damn time." While Boylan’s own secret was unusual, to say the least, she captures the universal sense of feeling uncomfortable, out of sorts with the world, and misunderstood by her peers. Jenny is supported on her journey by her best friend, novelist Richard Russo, who goes from begging his friend to "Be a man" (in every sense of the word) to accepting her as an attractive, buoyant woman. "The most unexpected thing," Russo writes in his Afterword to the book, "is in how Jenny’s story we recognize our shared humanity." As James evolves into Jennifer in scenes that are by turns tender, startling, and witty, a marvelously human perspective emerges on issues of love, sex, and the fascinating relationship between our physical and our intuitive selves. Through the clear eyes of a truly remarkable woman, She’s Not There provides a new window on the often confounding process of accepting ourselves.

30 review for She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders

  1. 4 out of 5

    starfy

    way back in 1994, when jennifer finney boylan was still james finney boylan, i found myself in freshman english with this amazing, fun, empathetic, creative professor. he was inspiring in his energy even for us, the lowest of the low - the students who were not aspiring english majors, the students who were taking EN115 because we had to. but man, what a great class jim lead. interestingly, the topic in our small (20 students) section was gender roles and archetypes of men and women. we read cos way back in 1994, when jennifer finney boylan was still james finney boylan, i found myself in freshman english with this amazing, fun, empathetic, creative professor. he was inspiring in his energy even for us, the lowest of the low - the students who were not aspiring english majors, the students who were taking EN115 because we had to. but man, what a great class jim lead. interestingly, the topic in our small (20 students) section was gender roles and archetypes of men and women. we read cosmopolitan and playboy, we watched the marilyn monroe film 'some like it hot.' we talked openly about relationships and life and marriage and i clearly remember jim's reply to my immature statement about marriage - that it's just a piece of paper, why does it have to mean everything? if you're in love and together, why do you need to get married? his reply: i hear you, i thought that way too, once upon a time, but i think you'll feel differently when you're older. and i even got to see jim's home life up close when i babysat for him one cold, dark night. i soaked in the photos in his house, loved the home he and his wife had created, and was a little envious of how neatly wrapped up his life seemed to be. and then, about a year after graduation, came the flurry of emails: "did you hear james finney boylan is having a sex change?" "did you hear?" "did you hear?" so much fuss over something that shouldn't be earth-shattering, but remember we were students at a small, private, liberal arts college in maine. where it was voted - my senior year in 1997 - to legally descriminate against people for being gay. i mean, oh my god. what was jim thinking? what was he feeling? how were his boys and wife handling this life overhaul? this book gives you some idea of what it was like for jim to become jennifer, for him to break the news to his friends, his bandmates, his family. although i would love to know more about how jennifer feels with her female anatomy, i am also content knowing she's taken care of herself, set herself free, and has maintained a loving relationship with her children and ex-wife. i know life doesn't always work out the way we might have anticipated or hoped for, but that doesn't mean it takes a wrong turn - just an unexpected one full of life, people, adventures, laughter and love.

  2. 4 out of 5

    C.

    This is one of those books that I enjoyed so much that I can try to understand that some readers might not have liked it for legitimate reasons, but I don't really get it. Jennifer's writing is brilliant, and she can capture the riotous absurdity of an event with amazing clarity and compassion. Apart from any aspects of her transsexuality, she's a great writing, and although I tend to avoid memoir, I would have read about her life and memories even if she'd had a conventional sexuality. The episo This is one of those books that I enjoyed so much that I can try to understand that some readers might not have liked it for legitimate reasons, but I don't really get it. Jennifer's writing is brilliant, and she can capture the riotous absurdity of an event with amazing clarity and compassion. Apart from any aspects of her transsexuality, she's a great writing, and although I tend to avoid memoir, I would have read about her life and memories even if she'd had a conventional sexuality. The episode of her grandmother and aunt during the hurricane, and the night Orange comes over and then the drunken vet dressed as Santa turns up at his house -- all the reviewers who didn't like the writing, are you telling me those bits didn't have you falling out of your seat laughing? (And to Erin Walior, who write "I really didn't like the writer's style. I know she's not a writer, and that's obvious." Um, she is a writer. And she talks about it in the book -- did you actually read it?) As for her story, I was profoundly moved and felt my self having that old revelation that I've had countless times before, but that we all should be reminded of constantly -- everyone is just trying to live their life. Everyone is "normal." Any lifestyle you can look at as "strange" or "deviant" is just a person doing the best they can to be who they are. Gay, straight, trans, illegal immigrant, everyone of our lives is just our lives. It isn't exotic, it isn't some freak-show to be stared at or even pitied, it's just life. I can't help but think a lot of people who were disappointed by this book wanted something more sensational, and were let down when it was just a woman leading her life. I really wish people who gave books three stars or said they were disappointing would let on a bit more what that means, as I can't see not loving this book. But my responses to the more common complaints: "She's self-absorbed." Um, its a memoir? Anyone who writes a memoir thinks that their life, or their thoughts about their life are interesting or important enough that strangers would want to read it, which is, by definition, self-absorbed. That said, I think Jenny is very patient and understanding with her friends and partner, and goes out of her way to let their doubts, concerns, and even anger show through in a compassionate, fair manner. We see how hard it is on her wife, and not in a way that makes her look judgmental or bigoted, just a woman who is confused about why she has to lose the man she loves. I particularly loved her inclusion of the e-mails between herself and Russo, as Russo perfectly encapsulates the confusion and doubt that many friends of transitioning individuals must feel, even as he is trying his hardest to love an support Jenny. And to Wistaria Clark, who was offended by Jenny's glib comment about the director of her movie dying -- um, dark humor? She wasn't being self-absorbed there, she was being funny. "I wanted more of an insight into the trans experience." There is no "trans experience," there is only the individual, human experience. You can't read Wright and get the "black experience," or read Wolfe and get the "female" experience," or read Dan Savage and get the "gay experience." Boylan was writing about what she went through as a male-to-female trans individual -- if you want to understand "the experience," read a few more memoirs. I bet each one is different. Wistaria (again) complained "I feel like I have less of an understanding of what it is like to be transgendered. It gave me no insight into the issue. How did she know she was a woman born in a man's body? She just wakes up in the morning knowing she's a woman. Just like women do. Uh huh. So helpful." It might not be helpful, but its true. Can you explain to me how you knew you were a woman, and make it both interesting, meaningful, and helpful to me as a man? Probably not. Jenny's job as a writer isn't to help you understand "what its like to be transgendered," its to tell her story, which she did brilliantly. I just hope that Boylan writes a follow up five years from now, as the book basically ends as her new life is beginning. Her relationship with Grace is, understandably, the most compelling and complex aspect of the book, and where the two of them go from here, and how their relationship evolves, would make a great book on its own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    To be honest, this is not a book that I would ever have considered reading had it not been assigned for our June selection in my real person book club. The person who chose it is a psychologist who wanted some insight into the subject of transsexuals and their feelings. It is also very timely because this book club is in NC, and we all know about the "bathroom issue" that NC has created. I make the drive several times a year because our book club has been together for 25 years. This is the story To be honest, this is not a book that I would ever have considered reading had it not been assigned for our June selection in my real person book club. The person who chose it is a psychologist who wanted some insight into the subject of transsexuals and their feelings. It is also very timely because this book club is in NC, and we all know about the "bathroom issue" that NC has created. I make the drive several times a year because our book club has been together for 25 years. This is the story of a woman born into a male body and her struggle for many years to overcome her feelings and fit in. As a man, she fell in love with a woman, got married and had 2 children. She was an English professor at Colby College in Maine, co-chair of the English department, an author, a part time musician, financially solvent; in short, she had a very good life.....as a man. But she had a tortured inner life, because every morning she woke up in the wrong body. Finally, in her early 40's, she admitted to her wife that she wanted to transition. This is the story of Jenny's life from childhood, through her sex change experience, and after. What really put this memoir across the top for me was the involvement of Richard Russo. He is one of my favorite novelists, and, it turns out, Jenny's best friend. Back when Jenny was Jim, they shared an office at Colby College and through their shared sense of humor, they formed a close bond. Russo had a huge part in this story, from his shock at learning Jim's secret, trying to accept it, and being there during the hormone therapy and the surgery. He wrote a 5 chapter afterward, illuminating his feelings in trying to come to grips with the whole scenario. That was one of the best parts of the book for me. I can't say that after reading the book I can understand the feelings of transsexuals any better than I did before, but I can certainly better understand the difficulties they, and their families, face. This memoir was written with great insight and humor.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    There were a few things I loved about Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir "She's Not There" - mostly the insights into the differences between male and female. But when I finished, I felt like SOMETHING definitely wasn't there. I wanted more from the memoir. I wanted to know why Boylan always identified with women, even though she was born male - the deep psychological reasons. Was her father not home enough? Not loving enough? Did she have an especially close relationship with her mother? Was there so There were a few things I loved about Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir "She's Not There" - mostly the insights into the differences between male and female. But when I finished, I felt like SOMETHING definitely wasn't there. I wanted more from the memoir. I wanted to know why Boylan always identified with women, even though she was born male - the deep psychological reasons. Was her father not home enough? Not loving enough? Did she have an especially close relationship with her mother? Was there some kind of traumatic experience? Or did she always feel that way? I wanted to know how she dealt with those feelings as a child. How did they manifest? How did other kids react? How did Boylan-the-little-boy cope? The memoir seems to jump from Boylan being a 4-year-old boy to a 10-year-old to an 11th grader. I wanted to know why Boylan felt she had to become a woman. Sure, she tried living as a manly man and it never felt quite right. But why couldn't she just try not hiding that aspect of her personality and living as a man with a lot of feminine traits? Why didn't she try taking drugs to help her feel more masculine when she was a man? Or did she - and maybe not tell us about it? I wanted to know about the surgery. How much did it cost? Had she been saving up for it? Or did it create a financial strain for her family? (Boylan is a college professor and her wife is a social worker. I can't imagine that they're rolling in dough.) And if it created a financial strain, how did the family cope? In that aspect - Boylan's transition and surgery - the book seemed too unreal. Her kids took it well. Her wife, while upset, took it reasonably well. There was no yelling and screaming recorded in the memoir. It seemed like money wasn't really a problem. It just seemed too easy. And how does Boylan feel now that she's a woman? Good, presumably. Is there anything she misses about being a man? Does she find it easier or harder being a woman? If she could undo it, would she? Or would she go through her transition and GRS sooner? Or would she do everything the same? And... Would it have killed Boylan to provide some lyrics to the oft-mentioned song "She's Not There" so that we readers could understand why it's significant?? And... Why is it that Boylan's friend, Richard Russo, provides the most meaningful insight in the book in his afterword? "She is not merely Grace, she is his grace - that gift from God that can never be earned, but must be rather freely and gratefully accepted." Why didn't Russo just write this book for Boylan?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    I loved this book. In those first disturbing post-election days, it was very difficult for me to find a book that didn’t feel either totally trivial or wrist-slittingly bleak, but She’s Not There fit the bill. A significant work in the canon of trans literature, this memoir leavens its own importance with a very healthy dose of upbeat humor. And the writing is just great—I hadn’t realized the author was a novelist and creative writing professor, and I definitely wasn’t expecting the skilled, eng I loved this book. In those first disturbing post-election days, it was very difficult for me to find a book that didn’t feel either totally trivial or wrist-slittingly bleak, but She’s Not There fit the bill. A significant work in the canon of trans literature, this memoir leavens its own importance with a very healthy dose of upbeat humor. And the writing is just great—I hadn’t realized the author was a novelist and creative writing professor, and I definitely wasn’t expecting the skilled, engaging writing that’s on ample display here. I learned a lot and was exceedingly grateful for Boylan’s willingness to bare her soul for the benefit of all of us. Also, Richard Russo’s surprisingly large role in She’s Not There added a substantial amount of literary intrigue for me. All in all, an immensely satisfying reading experience.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Defenestraethe

    Memoirs are hard to get right: too much honesty and everyone will come away hating you, too littleand everyone comes away hating you and thinking you're a phony. Then too, many people who have had interesting lives aren't able to articulate them very well. Then you can read a couple of hundred pages and still never have a clue what the author is like. And those who are good at turning their personal history into charming anecdotes are rarely also good at placing their narrative into a bigger con Memoirs are hard to get right: too much honesty and everyone will come away hating you, too littleand everyone comes away hating you and thinking you're a phony. Then too, many people who have had interesting lives aren't able to articulate them very well. Then you can read a couple of hundred pages and still never have a clue what the author is like. And those who are good at turning their personal history into charming anecdotes are rarely also good at placing their narrative into a bigger context. Every single bit of it is hard: there are just so many places to screw it up. Boylan does not screw it up. She gives the reader enough to feel engaged on an emotional level, all the while she's making one laugh and cry and laugh and sigh and laugh. I had no problem at all believing that she's the most popular professor at her college. She's funny as hell in a quiet sort of way, not at all like a string of jokes cobbled together. And then wham, right in the feels. What I think it is, is this: Boylan is brilliant at capturing the concrete detail, and the detail is so much more evocative and visceral than emoting would be. There's no cataloging of emotional states, instead there are things that happen, or that noticeably fail to happen. There are weird relatives, and stupid kid stuff (from both the parent and child angles). I like the visit to the beach and the creepy aspects of an old house. A good book by a writer who is new-to-me gives me a list of titles to look forward to reading. Not only do I want to read everything else Boylan has written, but I want to read everything Richard Russo has written, too. Library copy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    I finished the book - it was a quick read. 1 - It's very well written - the author is an English professor in an East Coast college... 2 - It takes courage for a transsexual to make the transition. 3 - It takes courage for the wife of a transsexual to watch her spouse make the transition. 4 - I am SO glad I never had to deal with this dilemma 5 - I wonder what it takes to live with the knowledge you are not what you seem. Courage, fortitude, integrity. 6 - I wonder how many others in this world live w I finished the book - it was a quick read. 1 - It's very well written - the author is an English professor in an East Coast college... 2 - It takes courage for a transsexual to make the transition. 3 - It takes courage for the wife of a transsexual to watch her spouse make the transition. 4 - I am SO glad I never had to deal with this dilemma 5 - I wonder what it takes to live with the knowledge you are not what you seem. Courage, fortitude, integrity. 6 - I wonder how many others in this world live with this daily and do not have the abovementioned characteristics to see through to the change and transformation.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    I took a couple classes with Jenny and one with James, so I'm a little prejudiced. But, I loved it despite my inclination to love it already. I think the struggle to come to terms with something you already know but don't want to face is beautifully portrayed here. She talks about how she needs to be selfish in this decision, but at the same time, it tears her apart that she is breaking the hearts of those around her. All in all, it is a hopeful story and I really enjoyed it. I took a couple classes with Jenny and one with James, so I'm a little prejudiced. But, I loved it despite my inclination to love it already. I think the struggle to come to terms with something you already know but don't want to face is beautifully portrayed here. She talks about how she needs to be selfish in this decision, but at the same time, it tears her apart that she is breaking the hearts of those around her. All in all, it is a hopeful story and I really enjoyed it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Wow. I wasn't expecting a book about a trans woman's life experiences to be a hate read. But damn if it didn't turn into a hate read. Ok so let's get on the same page: This is a memoir from Jennifer Finney Boylan. She is a creative writer and an English professor at Colby College. She was born a man, but from an early age identified as female. She married a woman, they had two kids, and transitioned in the early 2000s with (including a gender reassignment surgery). She and her wife are still marr Wow. I wasn't expecting a book about a trans woman's life experiences to be a hate read. But damn if it didn't turn into a hate read. Ok so let's get on the same page: This is a memoir from Jennifer Finney Boylan. She is a creative writer and an English professor at Colby College. She was born a man, but from an early age identified as female. She married a woman, they had two kids, and transitioned in the early 2000s with (including a gender reassignment surgery). She and her wife are still married. I picked up this book because I wanted to hear more about the lived experiences of a trans person, as told by a trans person. We good? OK. What. The. HELL. Was. This. Book. First and foremost, let's all be honest: this book barely scratched the surface on the lived experiences of being a trans person. The amount of "telling" and not "showing" was astounding to me, particularly because the author is a creative writer. What a blown opportunity to communicate this extremely misunderstood and (at the time of publication) little known phenomenon. I can give some grace that perhaps Boylan was trying to emphasize the humanity of her story by focusing on self-deprecating surface-level humor, like Ellen DeGeneres. But this memoir was SPECIFICALLY SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT LIFE IN TWO GENDERS, and beyond just "I liked wearing skirts", there was no substantive analysis. Secondly, I'll come out and say it: Boylan sounds like an Ivy-Tower Dwelling, self-centered Academic stooge. The sheer amount of text that is spent droning on and on name-dropping her colleagues at Colby College, who published what book you've never heard of, the lobster dinners their families share at the coast, the drama about tenures and scholastic achievements...it just wreaked of Academia Horseshit. I don't mean to be rude but Colby College is not a well-known school outside of the Northeast. The fact that Boylan refers to it as one of the best liberal-arts colleges in the United States made me snort out loud. Girl, please. And that sense of tailcoat-riding overlapped into other areas, too. The fact that Boylan was roommates with Charlie Kaufman was a cool coincidence, but to bring Kaufman back later as a name-drop and call him a friend (even though they don't seem to have ever hung out or connected in a meaningful way) felt so sad and forced. It all makes a little more sense if you zoom out and realize that Boylan's friend Russo in the book won a Pulitzer Prize; if you think about the world of academia, and how petty and competitive it can get, it's reasonable that Boylan would cling to whatever celebrity-by-proxy floated through her life. It's just such a tenuous and naked grab for fame. Thirdly, I'm gonna' be the asshole who says it: this author and this book feel like they are attention-seeking. I know, I know; bigots sling that accusation at members of the queer community everyday with the goal of hoping we go away and shut up and be ashamed of our identities. Fuck that, we shouldn't go away. But the signs of attention-seeking throughout this novel are egregious. That whole business about emailing the Colby College staff AND mailing everyone a letter about the transition, on top of running a website about yourself and your trans experiences, FOLLOWED by a book deal with a reprint ten years later? Jesus, that feels like overkill. And the mailer Boylan sent out was not just a letter, it was a freaking tome! The self-indulgence necessary to draw that much attention to yourself for any reason is beyond my emotional parameters. And to spend an entire chapter printing actual emails that students sent back to you, including emails (PLURAL) declaring that "you were the best professor I ever had!"....the whole thing just feels gross after awhile. There is no point in printing that correspondence, except to show off how much students like you. The fragile ego on these professors... I can't tell whether I think the author also feels opportunistic. A generous part of me believes she wants to normalize trans people in the mainstream. The less generous part of me looks at the fact that she kept writing articles about "My life during transition!", that bizarre letter she wrote to NASA wanting to be an astronaut, the fact that this whole book was published SO soon after the last chapter took place...I don't know. This doesn't feel like its the reflective memoir of a life lived, so much as it is a self-indulgent exploitation of your own unusual life. Again, I'll be generous and assume she was telling her story in good faith. But still. I'm going to go a step further on the path of jerkiness and say that the continued marriage of Boylan and her wife makes me very uncomfortable and sad. While it's exactly zero of my business who marries whom, I find their relationship troubling. In spite of the afterword from the wife herself, wherein she insists repetitiously that she is happy (the lady doth protest too much), I am deeply suspicious that either she or Boylan are as happy as they say they are. The wife in question is not gay, yet she is married to a woman. That's not right. Lunatics like Michelle Bachman said that LGBTQ people were free to marry, they just had to be married to people of the opposite sex. We gays have been running from that prison for all of history; to see two human beings voluntarily opting into that prison feels wrong. The idea of two people being in a sexless, romantic-less marriage is a fate I avoided only by being born at a certain point in American history, and their type of marriage is one I was terrified I would be stuck in. I have the same level of pity for Boylan and her wife that I do for these Fundamentalist Christians on TV, where one member of the couple comes out as gay and they both enthusiastically tell the audience they are staying married because they love each other and they're not unhappy at all, and who needs sex when you have everlasting platonic friendship? It's not surprising that most of these couples become depressed, begin to self-harm, abuse substances, etc. These things don't end well, and for good reason. I think in an effort to support eachother through this journey, the Boylans have warped their marriage into something that I don't believe should fairly be called a marriage outside a court of law. They are both consenting adults, so they have a right to live their lives. It just breaks my heart to see. That's my rant. Skip this book, it was infuriating.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Juliet

    This book blew me away. I couldn't put it down, and was alternating between laughter and tears the whole time. Boylan presents such a compelling and captivating exploration of what it means to be a woman through beautiful writing and a very open presenatation of her own life. It's been a long time since I read a memoir this good. The book made me think about myself, my thoughts about love, and my celebration of being female. I recommend it for everyone. I don't think that Boylan's story tries to This book blew me away. I couldn't put it down, and was alternating between laughter and tears the whole time. Boylan presents such a compelling and captivating exploration of what it means to be a woman through beautiful writing and a very open presenatation of her own life. It's been a long time since I read a memoir this good. The book made me think about myself, my thoughts about love, and my celebration of being female. I recommend it for everyone. I don't think that Boylan's story tries to be the catch-all transsexual story. I think that many of us could use a broader understanding of the trans experience, and the opportunity this book provides to laugh, to reflect, and to thoroughly enjoy is altogether powerful and wonderful.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    This is definitely an interesting book: the memoir of a transgender woman who made the transition in her early 40s, after marrying a woman who had no idea of her gender issues, having two kids, and building a career as an English professor in rural Maine. It seems to be pretty heavily fictionalized, which makes for entertaining reading, with lots of dialogue and some moments of comedy. But for all that this is a memoir about the author’s personal journey, I found her emotions understated and inn This is definitely an interesting book: the memoir of a transgender woman who made the transition in her early 40s, after marrying a woman who had no idea of her gender issues, having two kids, and building a career as an English professor in rural Maine. It seems to be pretty heavily fictionalized, which makes for entertaining reading, with lots of dialogue and some moments of comedy. But for all that this is a memoir about the author’s personal journey, I found her emotions understated and inner world underexplored, and couldn’t help wondering if this book was published too soon – hitting the bookstores just over six months after the conclusion of its final chapter, and only a year after the author’s surgery. Once you factor in the time for editing, printing, marketing, the whole publishing process, she would barely have had time to process her feelings and experiences before writing about them for public consumption. So it’s no wonder she often felt a bit inaccessible to me. I did enjoy reading this; Boylan can certainly tell a good story, and some of the self-contained chapters about colorful characters she meets along the way (the hitchhiking girls looking for a pit bull, the dysfunctional vending machine lover from the support group) are gold. I also enjoyed her portrayal of her relationship with Richard Russo, who struggles mightily with having his best friend suddenly turn into a woman – it’s rare to see a portrayal of adults actively engaging in and working on their friendship in this way, or even having friends important enough to them to make the effort. There’s a lot of raw emotion in these sections that must have taken courage on both their parts to put out for the world to see. But while I can see the benefit of this book in increasing acceptance of transgender folks, I felt in a way that I understood what it means to be transgender less well after reading it – I didn’t really get from Boylan’s writing why gender was so important to her, what parts of herself she felt she couldn’t express as a man. What does being a woman mean to her? It would have been nice also to read more about the differences between being a man and being a woman: where she talks about this it’s all pretty obvious stuff (as a woman she feels more physically vulnerable, and clothes shopping is way harder). Was there anything she disliked about being a man, other than the fact that it didn’t match her sense of identity? Any unexpected advantages to being a woman? Did she actually start cooking more post-transition, or was it just mentioned more often? Did household roles change at all? And then there’s her relationship with her wife, about whom Boylan writes a lot. “Grace” (not her real name) is blindsided by the whole transgender thing, and understandably heartbroken – whether they divorce or not, she’s losing her husband. (view spoiler)[She sticks around, out of what increasingly seems to be grim determination rather than any real desire to be in this marriage, and even as Boylan herself seems increasingly ambivalent about the marriage as her sexuality shifts (by the end both are heterosexual women). The later chapters are written with a sense that the two will probably split up someday, and it seems like Boylan is okay with that – or perhaps just pretending to be, since these conversations were presumably ongoing as the book went to press. But when a look at some of the author’s recent op-eds showed that the two are still together, this did not seem to me a happy ending – for all Russo’s portrayal of their relationship as a great love story in his well-written afterword. (hide spoiler)] The other thing that troubled me about the book is the level of fictionalization. In her note at the end, the author admits that “certain moments in it have been gently altered – by compressing or inverting the time line, making various people taller or shorter, blithely skipping over unpleasantness, inventing dialogue, as necessary.” Particularly notable to me, after having read Tim Kreider’s essay about accompanying Boylan to her surgery, was the fact that nowhere in either of the accounts of that trip in this book was he ever mentioned, an omission that makes the journey seem lonelier and more intimate than it apparently was in real life. How many other friends were also present and unmentioned, and how many other changes did the author make? At any rate, I did find this a worthwhile read, but of the books I’ve read about transgender issues so far, I think Becoming Nicole might be the better choice for readers on the outside looking for greater understanding.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Poorly chosen title, terrible cover concept (why cut a woman in half?!)... but the book is well written and should educate a lot of people about trans issues. I myself was a bit surprised about the author's naivete when she was first transitioning--clearly, while living as a straight man, she had never met trans people or even gay or lesbian or bi people who were out. Quite a sheltered existence, considering she was a sophisticated college prof at Colby. So her story is probably more important, Poorly chosen title, terrible cover concept (why cut a woman in half?!)... but the book is well written and should educate a lot of people about trans issues. I myself was a bit surprised about the author's naivete when she was first transitioning--clearly, while living as a straight man, she had never met trans people or even gay or lesbian or bi people who were out. Quite a sheltered existence, considering she was a sophisticated college prof at Colby. So her story is probably more important, then, because she didn't have a supportive trans or glbt community to stand by her as she faced the challenges of coming out, transitioning, and dealing with negative reactions from family and friends. She's no Leslie Feinberg or Kate Bornstein, but her memoir has something important to say to the mainstream of American society nonetheless.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It is a memoir written by a transsexual. James Boylan is a husband and father of two. He is a published author and a college professor. But for his whole life, he felt like something was wrong – that he had been born in the wrong body. This is the tale of him slowly coming to grips with having to make a sex change. He goes through a lot of therapy. It's about how he comes out to his wife, best friend, and children, and how they dealt with it. He starts dressing like a woman, and taking hormones. It is a memoir written by a transsexual. James Boylan is a husband and father of two. He is a published author and a college professor. But for his whole life, he felt like something was wrong – that he had been born in the wrong body. This is the tale of him slowly coming to grips with having to make a sex change. He goes through a lot of therapy. It's about how he comes out to his wife, best friend, and children, and how they dealt with it. He starts dressing like a woman, and taking hormones. It talks about his surgery. It is a well-written book, and the subject material is very interesting. You can see pictures of Boylan as a male, and later, as a female in this book. Now a woman, Jenny Boylan is still a professor at the college. At the end of the book, she is still married to Grace, her wife, but she leaves a kind of ambiguity to it. After she started changing, wearing skirts and growing breasts, her wife didn't want to have sex with her anymore. They are now more like sisters, they say. But her wife, Grace, doesn't want to break up the family. It would be interesting to know what happened after this book was published. Grace deals very well to James transitioning to Jenny. She doesn't leave, or ask for a divorce, but you can tell she's crushed. She's lost her husband, and she's lost the man she married. It's very sad. While Jenny is free, liberated, and finally happy, Grace is faced with nothing but terrible choices. A very intimate and informative portrait of transsexual life. A good read for someone who has a loved one who is making the Change.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I was really excited to have this chance to read this book for my Intro. to Women' and Gender Studies class because my father recommended it to me. I really enjoyed the book, but not in the ways that I expected to. I also have to say that I think that memoirs are hard books to review, because they are about personal experiences and there's so many different things that one can take away from a memoir. I went into this book thinking that I would learn more about what it means to be transsexual and I was really excited to have this chance to read this book for my Intro. to Women' and Gender Studies class because my father recommended it to me. I really enjoyed the book, but not in the ways that I expected to. I also have to say that I think that memoirs are hard books to review, because they are about personal experiences and there's so many different things that one can take away from a memoir. I went into this book thinking that I would learn more about what it means to be transsexual and what someone who is transsexual and undergoes a sex change endures. Although I did learn about that some while reading this book, I found myself very touched by the stories of the individuals surrounding the author. I kept thinking of her spouse, namely of how difficult it would be to be in her place and how I think I would feel in that circumstance. I felt that this book was well written, although there were a few parts near the end where the way the narrative was executed was slightly awkward. Boylan had me laughing out loud many times in the first half of the book. However, she had me wanting to cry at a few points. I definitely value a book that can have both of these effects on me. I also have to say that I think the afterward by Richard Russo adds so much to the end of the book. I really wasn't sure about it until I had read all the way through it, but I found it quite honest and emotional. As an avid reader, I thought this book was an excellent starter to learning more about individual experiences with transexuality.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    there was part of me (the part that studied american studies at a liberal arts school and used the word "intersectionality" in over a dozen papers) that was critical of and disappointed in this book. jenny never acknowledges the way her transition experience was shaped by her class and race privilege. her expensive surgeries and cushy job in colby college's english department hugely shaped her experience, yet jenny seems to have no awareness or interest in exploring these things. that said, i cam there was part of me (the part that studied american studies at a liberal arts school and used the word "intersectionality" in over a dozen papers) that was critical of and disappointed in this book. jenny never acknowledges the way her transition experience was shaped by her class and race privilege. her expensive surgeries and cushy job in colby college's english department hugely shaped her experience, yet jenny seems to have no awareness or interest in exploring these things. that said, i came to love her through reading her story. she's immensely likable, earnest almost to a fault, and clearly loves the people in her life deeply. learning about her relationship with her wife grace was my favorite part of this book. richard russo refers to it as "a great love story", and that's exactly what it felt like. it's not a traditional one, or even always a happy one, but their compassion for each other and commitment to the life they'd built together was heart wrenching. i also always enjoy reading about the friendships between writers, and the russo-boylan tale was no exception. their support for each other's work is eclipsed only by their support for each other's lives. previously, i've never thought much about reading a russo novel, but jenny made him seem so full of heart and humor that i've added him to my life list.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    What a wonderful and startlingly honest book this is! The world is not an easy place for the transgendered, especially during transition: jobs are lost, relationships strained or broken, even strangers can be cruel. All because someone wants to be physically what they are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Finney takes you through every painful step of the process--and shows you some of eventual joys. This book is about love and self respect above all else, being true to yourself no m What a wonderful and startlingly honest book this is! The world is not an easy place for the transgendered, especially during transition: jobs are lost, relationships strained or broken, even strangers can be cruel. All because someone wants to be physically what they are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Finney takes you through every painful step of the process--and shows you some of eventual joys. This book is about love and self respect above all else, being true to yourself no matter what the world has to say about it at the time. It's brave and resonating and should be read by everyone.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bibliovoracious

    Wonderful story of M to F transition that's both amusingly engaging and deeply emotional. Husband, father, and professor fulfills destiny to become female. What amazing bravery! I was especially fascinated by the difficult process her wife went through, losing her husband without losing love. SO interesting. Clearly a case of don't judge a book by its cover (who signed off on that?). Or title. I still don't get it. Wonderful story of M to F transition that's both amusingly engaging and deeply emotional. Husband, father, and professor fulfills destiny to become female. What amazing bravery! I was especially fascinated by the difficult process her wife went through, losing her husband without losing love. SO interesting. Clearly a case of don't judge a book by its cover (who signed off on that?). Or title. I still don't get it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    S.

    I didn't expect this to be such a funny, quick read. I didn't expect this to be such a funny, quick read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adrien

    This is the safe, sterile, accessible book you'd hand to people you're not comfortable recommending Feinberg or Coyote to, and what stunned me is that the conclusion, written by Richard Russo, felt more personal and open, especially since his is a perspective that gets a bit of a slant to it halfway through. I think this safe business is in part because large chunks of this book are explanations that someone with no experience with trans* issues requires (word-for-word dialogue of conversations This is the safe, sterile, accessible book you'd hand to people you're not comfortable recommending Feinberg or Coyote to, and what stunned me is that the conclusion, written by Richard Russo, felt more personal and open, especially since his is a perspective that gets a bit of a slant to it halfway through. I think this safe business is in part because large chunks of this book are explanations that someone with no experience with trans* issues requires (word-for-word dialogue of conversations with doctors and the hormone-surgery gatekeeping process, for instance), or may require, and so it starts to feel textbook introduction-y. I also think it's in part because issues that could be delved into aren't; they're not outright avoided, but given more of a glossing over (women are treated like shit and there's more to feminism and femininity than painting your finger nails! is about it) that keeps the book... well, safe. Sterile. Accessible. The general feeling I got was that this book is not for any community of trans people--and maybe that makes sense, because Boylan's community is not of trans* people, at least now how it's presented in these pages. Some of the writing also felt clunky and pressed, which stands out in stark relief to Russo's conclusion. I dunno; it's not bad. It's not mindblowing. It's human and there are portions of it which are effectively moving, and others that drag it down and back. I think any sense of community is REALLY what's missing from it, too, but I'm going to have to mull that one over before I try to put it into words. I've seen reviews knock this book because Boylan has such a (relatively) easy transition process, too, but I don't feel it's fair to judge her life based on that, either.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ai Miller

    I went in expecting a kind of typical trans memoir (given that this one is now something of a classic) and yeah, there's definitely some of that, because Boylan's life matches up fairly neatly with a lot of narratives about trans people. She's very reflective, though, and very self-aware of how it might read to other people. (Sometimes it felt a little name-drop-y, but I would say generally not enough to be annoying.) My least favorite part of this book was the time spent on her wife's struggle, I went in expecting a kind of typical trans memoir (given that this one is now something of a classic) and yeah, there's definitely some of that, because Boylan's life matches up fairly neatly with a lot of narratives about trans people. She's very reflective, though, and very self-aware of how it might read to other people. (Sometimes it felt a little name-drop-y, but I would say generally not enough to be annoying.) My least favorite part of this book was the time spent on her wife's struggle, which is interesting given the opposite reaction most (I'll just GUESS cis people's) reactions that Boylan notes in the afterword. I will say I deeply appreciated her wife's note at the very end, because I think it cleared up a lot for me re: that being a moment in her life that was hard but not impossible. Obviously this is colored by the fact that I am a trans person who has done a social transition, and have also had to hear how people around me were so good for accepting me, etc., so if you're trans and that narrative of how good it is the people who loved us before we came out are just for continuing to love us, wait until the end because I do think her wife does a solid job of brushing that aside. My FAVORITE part, though, is how funny Boylan is in this. Trans people are funny, and I loved seeing her little jokes about transition because they felt so genuinely trans in a way that is to me distinctly different from cis humor. Those little moments--and they are little, though I wouldn't say the book is overall like dark or whatever--were like a breath of fresh air, and I'm really glad.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    I did not expect to like this book, I think it had to do with a fear that it would be a shallow treatment of a really complex bunch of issues and the goofy cover image (who IS that supposed to be? Every time I closed the book I questioned the mystery of how these things get decided). Though regarding mystery, this book ultimately touches on what Russo sums up in his loving afterword - mysteries "which reside at our human center, constitute the deeper truths of our being" whcih "we often keep sec I did not expect to like this book, I think it had to do with a fear that it would be a shallow treatment of a really complex bunch of issues and the goofy cover image (who IS that supposed to be? Every time I closed the book I questioned the mystery of how these things get decided). Though regarding mystery, this book ultimately touches on what Russo sums up in his loving afterword - mysteries "which reside at our human center, constitute the deeper truths of our being" whcih "we often keep secret, because to reveal them makes us vulnerable." And the Mystery of "the way our heart inclines toward this person and not that one, how one soul selects another for its company, how we recognize companion souls as we make our way through the world in awkward bodies that betray us at every turn... not the special dilemma of the transgendered person: it's in all of us." I enjoyed the humor and tears - recognized the defense against grief and the pain that comes from moving toward a truth to one's self that feels like a pull away from dearly held others. The story of marriage, family and friendships, broke my heart and in the process made some more room in what can sometimes be a tight little space, often closed off to people I do not understand. Ultimately I was left with GREAT questions about the construct of gender, internal and social narratives and images - that continues to be a really cool outcome of reading this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Liv

    **Be sure to read the 2013 edition, which includes afterwords by both Jenny and her wife Grace.** I started this book on a whim during a particularly boring desk hour and quickly checked out the physical book and ebook and (a few weeks later) the audio. It's a memoir about one trans woman's experience growing up, coming out, and transitioning in her 40s, but it's also a memoir about love and loss and healing and hope and what it's like to carry around an enormous secret for forty years. I found m **Be sure to read the 2013 edition, which includes afterwords by both Jenny and her wife Grace.** I started this book on a whim during a particularly boring desk hour and quickly checked out the physical book and ebook and (a few weeks later) the audio. It's a memoir about one trans woman's experience growing up, coming out, and transitioning in her 40s, but it's also a memoir about love and loss and healing and hope and what it's like to carry around an enormous secret for forty years. I found myself returning to it every chance that I got. It taught me a lot about gender and existence and relationships and grace, but it also taught me about good memoir: how to write it and the tone and tenor that it takes. At one point in the narrative Jenny writes, "If you've made it this far, it's quite possible that you feel that the top of your head is about to blow off." I'd say that's pretty accurate, and that's exactly what made it so damn good. It's very rarely that I come across a book that makes me wrestle so thoroughly with my notions of "how it is" in the world while simultaneously kindling tremendous emotion in my heart. Overall, an absolutely gorgeous memoir that I'll be pressing into many people's hands. 5/5 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachel León

    (Probably 4.5 stars) Here's a fantastic memoir with lots of humor and heart about Jennifer Finney Boylan's journey as a trans-woman. I listened to the audio book, which was so much fun it was hard to turn off. I wanted to keep listening because it had me laughing and completely spellbound. (Finney Boylan is a wonderful performer.) Interestingly Finney Boylan is best friends with novelist Richard Russo and the audio book included two afterwards, one by Finney Boylan's wife, then second by Russo. (Probably 4.5 stars) Here's a fantastic memoir with lots of humor and heart about Jennifer Finney Boylan's journey as a trans-woman. I listened to the audio book, which was so much fun it was hard to turn off. I wanted to keep listening because it had me laughing and completely spellbound. (Finney Boylan is a wonderful performer.) Interestingly Finney Boylan is best friends with novelist Richard Russo and the audio book included two afterwards, one by Finney Boylan's wife, then second by Russo. I definitely recommend this one, particularly if you're looking for a good audio book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Vincent

    I had trouble with the stream of consciousness style.........but I got used to it. I must have missed something. I looked at the reviews on Amazon (to see if I'm the nut, usually) and most reviewers said something to the effect of how this book gave them some grand understanding of transgender. I found the treatment relatively superficial in that regard. I do like her sense of humor so I'm going to get one of her novels to read. I had trouble with the stream of consciousness style.........but I got used to it. I must have missed something. I looked at the reviews on Amazon (to see if I'm the nut, usually) and most reviewers said something to the effect of how this book gave them some grand understanding of transgender. I found the treatment relatively superficial in that regard. I do like her sense of humor so I'm going to get one of her novels to read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Women's National Book Association of New Orleans

    The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 22) in honor of Women's History Month: https://www.wnba-centennial.org/book-... From the Women's National Book Association's press release: From early in his life, Boylan felt “that he was in the wrong body, living the wrong life.” He knew that he was meant to be a woman. She’s Not There traces the life he led trying to fit in—dating women, marrying, having children, forming friendships with men as a male—until, a The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 22) in honor of Women's History Month: https://www.wnba-centennial.org/book-... From the Women's National Book Association's press release: From early in his life, Boylan felt “that he was in the wrong body, living the wrong life.” He knew that he was meant to be a woman. She’s Not There traces the life he led trying to fit in—dating women, marrying, having children, forming friendships with men as a male—until, at the age of 40, he could no longer deny what he was. The reader travels with Boylan as he transitions from male to female, with all the physical and psychological trauma and astonishment that it entailed. What did this change mean for Boylan’s wife Grace and novelist Richard Russo, Boylan’s closest friend, who suddenly found that the male friend he cherished was racked by doubts about the most basic aspect of his identity? Funny and heartbreaking, tender and insightful, She’s Not There gets to the heart of what makes us human.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    I devoured this book. It’s a memoir that’s hilarious at times, and sad too, like any life well lived. It’s also very well written. Most importantly for me, it really helped me understand what it feels like to be transgender. My niece, Michaela, is transgender, so this issue is near and dear to my heart. Their situation is different, but it still increased my understanding of what Michaela, my almost 6 year old niece, might feel. The author transitions from a man to a woman after she's a happily I devoured this book. It’s a memoir that’s hilarious at times, and sad too, like any life well lived. It’s also very well written. Most importantly for me, it really helped me understand what it feels like to be transgender. My niece, Michaela, is transgender, so this issue is near and dear to my heart. Their situation is different, but it still increased my understanding of what Michaela, my almost 6 year old niece, might feel. The author transitions from a man to a woman after she's a happily married adult, though she'd been female since she was a child but had tried to deny that feeling and felt she could be "saved by love". She thought the love of her wife saved her, but that couldn’t deny her innate female identity, who she truly was and is. The author does a really good job of explaining her feelings and transgender issues.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I’m grateful to the author for sharing her story of being a transgender woman with honesty, grace and humor. It was also helpful to hear the viewpoints and the struggles of her wife, her family, and friends. I learned about some things I was curious about, but in the end, my main takeaway is that “All we can do in the face of this enormous, infinite anguish is to have compassion.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stobby

    One of the challenges of writing a memoir is that you must have an interesting story. The pitch for She’s Not There, the hook, was transgender transformation. It begins with James Boylan’s adolescence, his romantic forays, his life as a bachelor, a married man and father all the way up to the decision to physically become a woman. There are a lot of anecdotes, sarcastic comments and reflections. In the end, the book does very little to unravel the mystery of gender reassignment. In fact, I still One of the challenges of writing a memoir is that you must have an interesting story. The pitch for She’s Not There, the hook, was transgender transformation. It begins with James Boylan’s adolescence, his romantic forays, his life as a bachelor, a married man and father all the way up to the decision to physically become a woman. There are a lot of anecdotes, sarcastic comments and reflections. In the end, the book does very little to unravel the mystery of gender reassignment. In fact, I still don’t understand why Jennifer Boylan thinks she’s inherently female. In the beginning of the book the author states there is a difference between female and femininity. Near the end of the book she reiterates that statement. No where in the 300 pages does she explain what this means. Instead whenever James Boylan unveils his female persona, he correlates it with a skirt and a bra. Surely a preference for high heels is not a reason to believe you are female. Specific female traits that come to mind are fastidiousness, nesting, worry, sensitivity to others, fussing, mothering, heavy use of the words ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’, particularity and multi-tasking. These aren’t evident in the book. Instead, while dabbling around the topic of gender identity, the author writes about her musical gigs, her travels, her academic achievements, the pseudo famous people she meets and her wit…she has to tell you she’s funny. The author does admit to some traditional masculine preferences like beer swigg’n and swear’n but points out these are not exclusively male (I agree) and therefore don’t disqualify her from being female. For me a disqualifier would be the road trip to Nova Scotia. Pitching a tent alone in the wilderness to reflect is not something women do. I didn’t intend to read this book with the idea of ‘confronting’ Jennifer Boylan’s decision to be female. In fact I feel quite arrogant doing so. Having never met Mrs. Boylan, I was left with a book that tries hard to be amusing instead of insightful and occasionally found myself, and shamefully so, wondering if Mrs. Boylan’s decision to change sex was spurred on by a need for attention. Ridiculous, I know. The transition must have been unimaginatively hard. But then, after the fact, she didn't exactly choose a life of obscurity. I wish nothing but happiness for Jennifer Boylan. I hope she experiences profound peace with her decision. But the topic of gender reassignment requires a depth that She’s Not There did not have and unfortunately I found the rest of the book tedious and boring.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I've followed Jenny Boylan's story since she first appeared on Oprah years ago to talk about her experience of being trans , and I've been friends with her on Facebook for some time now too. Yet for some reason, I wrongly assumed that this book was popular because of its subject matter and not because of its incredibly engaging writing. I also assumed that since it was published in 2003, it might be somewhat outdated in its perspective on trans identity. I was misguided on both counts. Boylan is I've followed Jenny Boylan's story since she first appeared on Oprah years ago to talk about her experience of being trans , and I've been friends with her on Facebook for some time now too. Yet for some reason, I wrongly assumed that this book was popular because of its subject matter and not because of its incredibly engaging writing. I also assumed that since it was published in 2003, it might be somewhat outdated in its perspective on trans identity. I was misguided on both counts. Boylan is a fabulous writer, exuding the perfect combination of pathos and comedy. But what most impresses me about this memoir is her ability to explain gender dysphoria in a non-binary manner. In doing so, she helps clarify for me one of the major debates in gender studies today: on one side, the argument that someone can inherently know that their gender doesn't match their bodies, while on the other side, the argument that gender is a social construct and not something inherent or biological. Boylan expertly explores perspectives by openly sharing her own complex experience, which does not fit neatly into either box, through an attitude of question, honesty, and, ultimately, wonder. Here's one of my favorite passages: "What I have come to realize is that no matter how much light one attempts to throw on this condition, it remains a mystery. Worse, it is a mystery that everyone has an opinion about...Having an opinion about transsexuality is like having an opinion on blindness. You can think whatever you like about it, but in the end, your friend is still blind and surely deserves to see. Whether one thinks transsexuals are heroes or lunatics will not help to bring these people solace. All we can do in the face of this enormous, infinite anguish is to have compassion" (248). Perhaps the major triumph of this book is that it is about far more than gender -- it is ultimately a profound quest narrative, a love story, and a tale of deep and abiding friendship. From Richard Russo's afterward: "To my mind, an even deeper mystery than the secrets we keep is the mystery of the way our hearts incline toward this person and not that one, how one soul selects another for its company, how we recognize companion souls as we make our way through the world in awkward bodies that betray us at every turn. This is not the special dilemma of the transgendered person; it's all of us" (299). Finally, for literature lovers, there are some fantastic references to Gatsby, Huck Finn and Keats, all of which seem part of the world of this memoir.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Anne

    This is an autobiography of a trans woman (someone born with male physiology, but who has always known they where cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually female). She is a Professor of English at Colby College in Maine and transitioned (changed the gender she presented to the outside world) about ten years ago at about age 45 while at Colby. She was and still is married and has two sons that she fathered with her non-trans female partner. This book was very literally life changing for me, but i This is an autobiography of a trans woman (someone born with male physiology, but who has always known they where cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually female). She is a Professor of English at Colby College in Maine and transitioned (changed the gender she presented to the outside world) about ten years ago at about age 45 while at Colby. She was and still is married and has two sons that she fathered with her non-trans female partner. This book was very literally life changing for me, but it is not likely to be so for the vast majority of readers. I read it in October 2008 a few months after I began to have a major crisis in my own life related to the fact that I am also a trans woman. At first, I read this book and some other biographies of trans women looking for good ways to explain to my own wife the feelings associated with the disconnect between who you know yourself to be and who everyone around you expects you to be. It turned out that Jenny was so good at describing these feelings and her situation so similar to my own (I am also a University Professor, am about 45 years old, and until recently was married to a non-trans woman) that I found myself learning a great deal about myself as I thought about the things she said. This book took several weeks for me to read since it often gave me a lot to think about before I moved on and on some occasions I had to put it down when parts hit too close to home and caused me to break down crying. There was a now-defunct message board at Jenny's web site (www.jenniferboylan.com) that particularly drew married middled-aged professional trans women (many with children) who were close to or had recently transitioned. I have become very close friends with many of these women even though I have only met a handful of them in person. It was Jenny's writing in this book (and the subsequent book "I'm Looking Through You") that brought us all together and allowed us to share very similar and emotionally intense situations that would be completely alien to almost anyone outside our tiny demographics. I went to Seattle with one of these friends to see Jenny speak and to take a writing workshop from her in March. It turns out that Jenny is also an incredibly good oral storyteller and a riveting teacher. I envy those who get to take her classes a Colby.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.