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Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders Hardcover

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Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders + She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767921763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767921763
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders Reader’s Guide Questions

Jennifer Finney Boylan

1. On page 7, author Jennifer Finney Boylan compares her own marriage to Deirdre with that of Grenadine Phelps, whom she meets at a fencing match. “By almost anyone’s measure,” she writes, “Deedie and I are the dangerous outliers, and Grenadine and her husband Mr. and Mrs. Normal.” Do you think of Jennifer and Deirdre as “outliers”? What makes a family “normal”?

2. Boylan writes, “It is my hope that having a father who became a woman has made my two remarkable boys, in turn, into better men.” Do you believe this is true? How do you think having a parent who is “atypical” affects children? Does it strengthen a family, or place it at risk?

3. Throughout Stuck in the Middle with You, we observe Boylan worrying that her sons will suffer by not having a father, that it will be harder for them to learn what they need in order to become men. And yet, her sons appear to flourish and thrive, and she notes that she has taught them some “masculine” things, like splitting wood, regardless of her gender. How important is having both a mother and a father for raising well-rounded children? Is it possible that the sex of the parents is less important than the values they teach or model?

4. Deirdre Boylan says that “marrying Jenny was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me.” Do you think this is true? If you were married to a spouse who emerged as transgender, would you be able to stay married to him or her? How important is gender to a relationship? Do you believe that we fall in love with a person, with a body, or both?

5. Boylan writes that “womanhood—like manhood—is a strangely flexible term.” She even notes that there are “genetic” women who have a Y chromosome. Is there a single thing that you believe defines someone as a man or a woman? Is, as Boylan suggests, our gender identity more “strangely flexible” than we first suspect?

6. “One of the things about manhood I learned from my father,” Boylan writes, “is that it’s a solitary experience, a land of silences and understatements, a place where a lot of important things have to be learned alone. Whereas womanhood, a lot of the time, is a thing you get to share.” Later, she suggests that fathers are more playful than mothers, and that mothers worry more about their sons and daughters. How do you think mothers and fathers are different in the way they interact with their children?

7. Richard Russo, in describing his largely absent father, says, “[I] can either take what he’s offering . . . enjoy it and let the rest go, or . . . be bitter and resentful. For me [it was] just an easy choice. . . . Just to have fun with him.” Are you surprised about Russo’s remarkably forgiving approach to his father’s many shortcomings? Have you ever been able, in your own life, to choose to “take what someone’s offering” and “just have fun,” instead of giving in to the very human instinct to feel resentment or anger?

8. Boylan’s children, at a remarkably young age, seem to adjust to the change in their parent, and go so far as to come up with a new name for her—“Maddy,” their combination of Mommy and Daddy. Are you surprised by the way the boys so lovingly accept something that many adults might have struggled with? Do you think the boys might have struggled more if Boylan’s transition occurred when they were older?

9. Edward Albee asks, in his interview with Boylan, whether parenthood “mean[s] making or is it the being?” He says, Boylan “never birthed [her two sons]. Isn’t that a different quality of parenthood?” What do you think? Are parents who are not biologically related to their children different from parents who are? Does the experience of actually going through labor and giving birth change the relationship between parent and child?

10. Dr. Christine McGinn notes in her interview that the definition of motherhood and fatherhood are changing. She tells the story of being transgender, (from male to female), saving sperm, and later using that sperm so that she and her female partner could have children. Both mothers breast-feed, and both mothers are the biological parents of their children. Do you view this, as Boylan seems to, as primarily a story about love, and adaptability? What does it mean to be a mother or a father in the twenty-first century, when the definitions are changing so rapidly? Will all this change have a positive effect on children, making them, possibly, more accepting of the diversity of human experience?

11. Cartoonist Tim Kreider discusses his affection for the biological mother and half sisters he first meets in his forties. What do you think accounts for the connection that biological siblings can feel? Later, he suggests that while he’s glad to have found his biological mother, he is unlikely to undergo a similar search for his biological father. Why would an adopted child be more curious about his or her biological mother than his or her father?

12. Boylan’s mother, Hildegarde, seems to accept Jennifer as her daughter, even after raising her as her son, in spite of the fact that she is a conservative person, both spiritually and politically. What do you think explains Boylan’s mothers’ ability to put aside her confusion and simply believe that “love will prevail”? If your child came out to you as transgender, would you be able to accept him or her with the same love that we see from Hildegarde? Is there anything that could happen that would make you turn your back on your child? Or should the love between parents and their children be a love without conditions?

From Booklist

Boylan, a best-selling novelist for youth and adult readers and a nonfiction writer, picks up the thread of her She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders (2003) in this combination of memoir and interviews. Born male, Boylan became a woman after marrying and fathering two children. Here she recounts 6 years of life as a cross-dressing father and 10 years as a mother and chronicles the demanding transition between those two roles. She writes of her yearning for normalcy and shares her mother’s loving and affecting response to the announced change, “I would never desert my child. . . . There will be a scandal, for a while. . . . ­But—I will adjust.” As striking as Boylan’s transgender experiences are, she also offers reverberating counterpoint in universally relevant observations about parenting and time’s passing. By including candid and revealing conversations on gender and families with such writers as Richard Russo, Edward Albee, Susan Minot, and Anna Quindlen, Boylan illuminates diverse family relationships and the many ways families operate fluidly on a seemingly never-ending spectrum. This unique and giving book has tremendous resonance. --Whitney Scott

More About the Author

Jenny Boylan is the author of ten books, including the brand-new I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU, a memoir about growing up in a haunted house, as well as a reflection on the nature of "being haunted." Her 2003 memoir, SHE'S NOT THERE was one of the first bestselling works by a transgender American. A three-time guest of the Oprah Winfrey program, she has twice appeared on Larry King Live as well as on the Today Show. She has been the subject of a documentary on CBS News' 48 Hours, and in the spring of 2007, Jenny played herself on several episodes of ABC's All My Children. She has been parodied with eerie accuracy by Will Forte on "Saturday Night Live." Since 1988, Jenny has been a professor of English at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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I've read the book twice now, and will undoubtedly read it again.
Samantha A. Perrin
Jennifer Finney Boylan's "Stuck in the Middle With You" will probably be classified as a transgender parenting memoir.
Some people will accept you, but those that really love you, will ALWAYS love you.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David N. Parker VINE VOICE on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The subtitle "Parenting in Three Genders" refers to Jennifer Boylan's parenting experience before, during, and after her transition male to female. It is really much more than that. It includes the important actual events along the way while raising important philosophical questions about parenting.
What is a parent? Once procreation and delivery occur, how much does effective parenting depend on gender? What are the similarities and parenting differences between a loving father and a loving mother?
In search of the answers, Ms. Boylan includes not only her own experiences, but interviews other parents of both genders who were in families with "different" parents, siblings, or children. She raises questions about what attributes characterize good parenting. She asks herself and others how a parent's gender may affect the child's outcome - or not.
At first glance, it seems this book is all about non-traditional families - whatever that means. As Ms. Boylan points out, the 2011 census found that only about 7% of US families reflect the common concept of a traditional family - one with a husband (father) employed outside the home, while the wife (mother) stays home and takes care of the kids.
My take on this book is that parenting is all about raising healthy, happy children with love and understanding while accepting responsibility for guiding them safely to adulthood. Good parenting is independent of gender.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Antigone Walsh VINE VOICE on April 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Frankly I was put off by the opening encounter between the author and an unhappy woman improbably named "Grenadine". Both were attending their children's fencing match when Grendadin complained that her husband, a soldier, again deployed in Iraq, had changed and was no longer the man she married. I must say I was not surprised, thinking PTSD. How could someone not be changed after being placed in a hostile Middle Eastern country where the inflexible populace not only approve of violence and hatred, they embrace it? How could you not change when every moment of your existence you are wondering whether it would be the last? I was expecting the author, a transexual who certainly knows alot about extreme change, to offer words of wisdom, encouragement and hope. Instead she gloated about how her unconventional household with two brillant boys and an understanding wife fared in comparison to a "normal" family. Of course Grenadine's brutish son was besting a smaller, more delicate child. So it seems that while the author demands understanding, acceptance and admiration, the great unwashed are undeserving of the same consideration.

The book has a breezy tone and deals with the author's life, pre and post transition. According to her, the reception of her change was nothing less than idyllic. The kids were unaffected and not bullied or badgered in school. The only issues the kids had were unrelated to the unconventional family unit: the younger child hated his math teacher and the older one was unfairly punished for an innocent but misguided joke. The friends and family members that disapproved eventually rejoined the fold and her spouse, employer, colleagues and community were all supportive. The author seems self centered and a bit selfish. It is all about her.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara VINE VOICE on June 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I enjoyed reading this memoir very much. The author and her wife sound like wonderful parents, and I love reading about successful, happy parenting, where the children are accepted as they are. I like reading about the little moments that make up a childhood and the parenting of that childhood. I felt sad after my reading that my older son (I have boys almost exactly the ages of the boys in the book) was waitlisted at Colby, as I'd have liked him to have Jennifer Finney Boylan as a professor very much. I also enjoyed, as I always do, reading a memoir set in Maine, fairly close to where I grew up.

What I don't think the book stood out for is what it is advertised as---"a memoir of parenting in three genders", because I didn't see any real different between Jenny's parenting before or after she became a woman. Which might be the point---things went pretty smoothly for them, although I'm sure they wouldn't see it that way at the time. That didn't make me dislike the book, but I'm just including that as a note. If you are looking for a book with scandal and drama, this isn't the place. It's more a book about raising kids and marriage.

The book also includes interviews with various people about their own lives, gender roles, childhoods and kids. These were interesting, but truthfully, I didn't feel like they always tied in to the rest of the book, and they had a tiny hint of name-dropping, in that a lot of them were with famous people. At one point at least, the book has what I think of as the "THE" introduction, talking about "the cartoonist Timothy Kreider" That always gets me. Don't call people "the" to point out how famous they are!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jenny Boylan has done it again! She has written another very thoughtful and powerful book about her life as a transgender woman and includes her most current updates on her growth and development within her lovely family in this delightful memoir.

I have read all of her books, and I must say that she always delivers. Her books are well written, thoughtful and very relevant to the changing environment of what the nuclear "family" is truly becoming.

This time she includes numerous personal interviews with a variety of different people. At first I thought these interviews might detract from reading about her and her life, but she magically intertwines the subject topics with the interviews. Which actually for me .... results in a more intimate portrayal of herself as a woman, mother and friend. Some of the interviews are intense, while some are very funny and light. Some are with famous individuals and others are interviews with close friends of Jenny's.

I also throughly enjoyed ALL the wonderful stories about her two boys, Sean and Zach. There is no doubt the love she has for both her children and her partner Deirdre. The warmth, love and humor that is throughout this book is what anyone who is contemplating becoming transgender really needs to know is possible. Some people will accept you, but those that really love you, will ALWAYS love you. No matter what. That is the beauty of this book. That is how Jenny writes, and how she lives her life.

In the final interview Jenny and Deirdre are interviewed by the author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Anna Quindlen. The interview is sweet, reflective and very humorous.

Jenny also gives out her personal email address in the book for those who have questions about becoming transgender.
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