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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book
Thoughtful and personal, never settling for cant or received wisdom, this story of a brother's transformation takes more than one unexpected turn. By the end of the journey, no one remains the same. Not even the reader. That Molly Haskell, one of our finest critics, proves to be a superb companion and guide comes as no surprise. The surprise here is that her sister...
Published 10 months ago by Frances J. Kiernan

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27 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Selective Empathy
While I commend the author for writing this memoir, I came across a paragraph that disturbed me and I felt the need to say my piece. Her views of Brandon Teena, a female to male transsexual who was brutally raped and murdered by two men in rural Nebraska, are nothing short of disgraceful. After watching Boys Don't Cry, a film based on Brandon's life, she claims she "hated...
Published 9 months ago by Ironclad Iconoclast


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27 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Selective Empathy, September 17, 2013
This review is from: My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation (Hardcover)
While I commend the author for writing this memoir, I came across a paragraph that disturbed me and I felt the need to say my piece. Her views of Brandon Teena, a female to male transsexual who was brutally raped and murdered by two men in rural Nebraska, are nothing short of disgraceful. After watching Boys Don't Cry, a film based on Brandon's life, she claims she "hated the duplicity" of his lifestyle and that he "invited the violence". How? She explains her view that the perpetrators manhood was taunted and Brandon pulled the wool over their eyes. How was their manhood taunted exactly? Brandon was their buddy who never acted with malicious intent towards them. And Brandon pulled the wool over their eyes, how? By not broadcasting his transition in a conservative town twenty years ago where gays and transgendered individuals were not only ostracized, but murdered, as he was? How can Haskell accept her sister Ellen with an open heart and mind and completely demean another individual from the same community, who chose to live in accordance with his gender identity? It is an ugly paradox, and a prime example of selective empathy.
What is most disturbing to me is that Haskell seems to be justifying the murderer's atrocious acts towards a human being. She describes them as being "uptight". Well, that takes the cake when it comes to understatements. Not only this, but Haskell disregards the use of male pronouns in reference to Brandon, ultimately discounting who he felt he was. Profound ignorance, insensitivity, and stupidity from someone I expected much more from. I put the book down after reading this terrible passage.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book, September 12, 2013
This review is from: My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation (Hardcover)
Thoughtful and personal, never settling for cant or received wisdom, this story of a brother's transformation takes more than one unexpected turn. By the end of the journey, no one remains the same. Not even the reader. That Molly Haskell, one of our finest critics, proves to be a superb companion and guide comes as no surprise. The surprise here is that her sister Ellen more than holds her own. Together, they have given us a beautiful book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual perspective on an unusual transition, October 20, 2013
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Most accounts of gender transitions are written by the transitioner. Instead, here we have an unflinchingly honest account written by her sister, with all her misgivings and ambivalent feelings about the change. Moreover, this is the story of a fairly late transition, not the more usual one in early middle age or youth. The interactions with other family members and friends are also described in some depth, including those who could not handle the change at all. Nor does this account end, as so many do, with the completed transition, but rather goes into the seven years which have followed. Moving, and revealing, without the politically correct "pink fog" which turns many such accounts into fantasies or propaganda.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ASTONISHING, September 16, 2013
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This review is from: My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation (Hardcover)
Molly Haskell loses her beloved brother and gains a beloved sister. The journey for both answers every question I'd ever had about transgendering. Haskell writes with true grace and wit. She has done deep research but folds it into the narrative in the most compelling way. When you close the covers of MY BROTHER MY SISTER, you will feel as if you have gotten inside three people, Haskell, her brother, and her sister. This is a gorgeous book, full of beauty, tenderness and wisdom. I read it in one sitting and the world fell away.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful for anyone to read, but especially me!, March 21, 2014
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This review is from: My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation (Hardcover)
Molly Haskell is amazing, and covers every aspect of the transgender, along with a central theme of deep caring for her brother/sister and possible fear of losing him. Amazingly, I, too, have a my brother/my sister, who is also 6 feet tall w/ blue eyes, went to St. Christopher's (for a while; he didn't quite fit in), left two wives to be a woman; I mean really!!!, has one son, always fixes my computer, and several other likenesses to Ellen; we are also from Richmond, VA and both live here. I wish everyone would read the Book, I guess mainly to know that transgendering is a MUST-DO, and the longer the person goes without making the change surgically and all, the more frustrated they become. Teresa (nee Thomas) knew when he was 4 years old that he wanted to be a girl. I don't believe he ever thought he could be back in 1947, but had always grappled with it. She is deliriously happy now. I wish Ellen the best with her continued popularity (we have some mutual friends) and send my condolences to Molly (with So much personality!) upon the sad loss of her beloved husband; and commend her and Ellen for such a splendid and informative
Book and for the courage of tackling every step of such a sensitive, controversial and long-hushed human condition.... BRAVO!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How does Molly Haskell remain a reporter yet and impassioned sister as she relates this story of transformation?.., May 14, 2014
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First of all, I'd read anything written by Molly Haskell. Her style is intellectual, concise, deep.
I hadn't understood the heroic surgeries necessary to achieve physical transformation..
To not only risk, but to-welcome this process suggests a most powerful urgency residing within., unconsidered by me before reading Molly Haskell's book. It is a tribute to Molly's ability to report as well as to have powerful abilities of self-examination. Very generous for both Haskell's to share this enlightening story.
Jo Ann Lederman
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review, January 18, 2014
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A very good accounting of the Transformation of Molly's new sister. I enjoyed reading and learning about the pitfalls, although Molly may have written too much about herself and their 'history' of growing up as siblings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Molly Haskell's latest book is a Marvel, December 31, 2013
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This review is from: My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation (Hardcover)
I find “My Brother, My Sister” absolutely fascinating reading. Haskell is a highly skilled writer and she has created an honest and incredibly brave work. She reveals her deepest feelings about her adored younger brother who determines at age 59 that he can no longer live as a man, and must give in to his decades long inner understanding that he really was meant to be a woman. The author deftly describes the sibling aspects of this new and for her, out-of-the-blue, conclusion while explaining her brother’s lifelong struggle with his gender confusion. She cleverly discusses situations from each character’s point of view. And, there is a complex assortment of characters.

Probably the most difficult part of the book to read is the vivid description of the surgical processes that John Cheves Haskell must endure to become Ellen Hampton, his chosen new name. While many readers may not be able to relate to the psychological and social intricacies of the event, the physical procedures can be clearly felt and understood by everyone. Remarkably, Eleanor, John Cheves’ now former wife, accompanies him for the initial twelve-hour surgery, and stays with him in the room for the first night. The description of this episode is the most moving in the book, and I had to read it several times to grasp the enormity of the pain, in every aspect, that these two people, who loved each other, endured. The author’s treatment of this moment is, to me, one of the clearest records of the mystery of love and the complexity of the human gender spectrum.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transformative, September 16, 2013
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This review is from: My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation (Hardcover)
My Brother My Sister carries the reader through this sister, brother, sister saga with the nuanced balance of personal, cultural, biological and emotional terrain and provides a profound exploration of loss, transformation, identity, self-knowledge and sisterhood in the familial and feminist sense. An exceptional quality of this story is how movingly and objectively Ellen shares her story allowing the reader to comprehend the urgency and necessity of fulfilling the expression of one's essential self - and the impossibility of denying the need to become who we truly are. This is a courageous book - Ellen and Molly are both so honest and generous in telling this story and in portraying the pain of losing a brother, a spouse and having to reframe a family history through a completely different lens. This is an important and very timely book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very honest, but a bit pretentious..., July 4, 2014
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I am a 64 year-old transgender woman with a sister who is two years older. We were close as kids in a rather dysfunctional Irish-Catholic family. I'm now 64 and she'll be 66 in September. I mention this because we are of a similar age as were the author and her brother when he began his transition to become a woman at just about the same age as the author's brother when I began my own transition. That was over a year ago and my sister has been very supportive while coming to terms with having two brothers and a sister, rather than three brothers. Thus, my hope was that the book would be helpful to both my sister and myself. I sent a copy to my sister and she told me she was familiar with the author and had considered reading it. I am writing this review without benefit of her perspective.
I rated it as highly as I did because I believe Molly Haskins did her best to be honest about her thoughts and feelings, and to try to include the perspectives of her "brother's" two ex-wives. Kudos for that.
While Molly does show some growth in her acceptance of her new sister, I believe her"proper" conservative upbringing as a Southern Belle bleeds through her narrative all too often, despite her admitted attempt to escape it by trying to become a cosmopolitan New Yorker.
My main complaint is that she "cherry picks" what research she summarizes in her chapter on transsexual/transgender medical research. For example, she fails to report the post-mortem research demonstrating differences in the brains of transgender/transexual male to female persons when compared to the brains of "normal" male brains. Though they share the same XX chromosomes, the brains of transgender women share a characteristic difference found in those born with the definitive XY chromosomal configuration, I.e., genetic women. Not proof, but clearly pointing toward confirmation of the transsexual/transgender insistence that they did not choose to be transgender. Haskins also fails to reference the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling, Professor of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown University, whose long term work has pretty well put to pasture the notion that there are only two sexes (she has defined five) and two genders. If Haskins was really looking to support her brother's adimant declaration that he did not choose to be transgender, how did she miss this research, in particular the work of Fausto-Sterling,who is a world renowned researcher and feminist, the latter of which Haskins also claims to be.
I am a life-long New Englander, born and raised in northeast Massachusetts and now living in central Vermont. I did live for a year in Columbia, South Carolina. It is a very different world. I say this because Haskins' very southern pretentiousness leaks through her narrative in a most annoying manner. Her concerns about" appearances" and what others might be thinking reveals more about her own narcissism than it does about genuine concern for her brother.
By the final chapter, Haskins does seem to have come to terms with the reality of having lost a brother and gained a sister and does seem to have become sincerely happy for Ellen, her new sister and Ellen's new life.
I would be quite remiss if I failed to mention that Haskins also dealt courageously with the slow and painful death of her beloved husband as Ellen's transition was unfolding.
Ultimately, I think this is the story of a strong woman doing the best she could under difficult and unforeseeable circumstances, and her brother become sister who also demonstrated the extraordinary courage and grit required to endure the full transexual transition she so successfully completed.
All told, this book was not quite what I expected and hoped it would be,but it is a very good book, that I do recommend.
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My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation
My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation by Molly Haskell (Hardcover - September 5, 2013)
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