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Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders Hardcover – April 30, 2013

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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 (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,809 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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The book is an easy, interesting read.
Laurie A. Brown
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

12 of 12 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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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Antigone Walsh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S.E. Poza on October 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Based on the title and blurbs, I expected this book to provide insights into how parenting is different for someone who is dealing with transgender issues. What it ended up being was sweet, sentimental, lightweight, and inconsistent. Boylan absolutely has a humanistic and gentle outlook on life which is reflected in how she frames her experiences. This is not a person given to harshness or anger, or at least not inclined to share that aspect of her personality much.

There are actually two parts to the book, though they are interspersed such that they aren't really presented as separate entities. There are Boylan's reminiscences, about both the distant and recent past, and then there are interviews with other successful and accomplished people who share their memories of their fathers and how those experiences shaped their personalities and parenting choices. The interviews could be added dimension to the book, but they end up feeling like padding. Perhaps if she had looked outside of her circle of friends and acquaintances to locate people who had bigger hardship and challenges, the interviews may have kept my interest. As it was, I gave up on them pretty fast.

Part of the problem is that the interviews appear to largely be transcribed close to verbatim rather than their content being gleaned and possibly analyzed for meaning and focus. They feel like languid trips down each subject's memory lane. Most of these trips are neither remarkable nor especially enlightening. I'm not sure what the point of them is, but I wanted to skip them after reading the first one. I just didn't care about stories about the average parents of successful people.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kathi Miller on September 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have said before in reviews that it is difficult to criticize a memoir. This is someone's life as they see it. So my focus with these books is on the readability and enjoyabilty.

Jennifer Finney Boylan was born a man, married a woman, had two sons, and then transitioned to a female. But it's not that simple for transgendered people, and this is the crux of this memoir. The author does not focus on the details of her transitioning in this memoir. She has laid those out in other published works. She delves into what it meant to her life as a married spouse and father. She spends the book letting the reader know how this affected her family and her own place in her family, both immediate and extended. For those who have read books on the transgendered experience, this is a departure. The author explains what it meant to her wife who went from having a husband to a wife, from a straight relationship to a same sex relationship, how her two young sons began calling her Maddy not Daddy, how her siblings, in-laws and mother dealt with the changes. The author admits that she received lots of support and is very lucky compared to many who transition although she has faced adversity along the way.

As an LGBTer myself, I am around those who are transitioning and those who have transitioned. Transitioning takes on many levels. Boylan transitioned completely, and this is more rare as it is extremely expensive. For this reason alone, the book is worth reading. It gives the reader insight into what a transgendered person faces emotionally as they grow into their new body while others are "watching". But while I recommend the book, it is not an easy read. It was disjointed and the timeline was hard to follow. It seemed the author wrote as a stream of consciousness.
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