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Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton Paperback – June 16, 1999
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Middlebrook, whose biography of Anne Sexton was noted for its controversial use of tape recordings and notes made during the poet's psychiatric treatment, was approached by Kitty Tipton Oakes, one of Billy's former wives, to write this biography; she interviewed his/her friends, spouses, family members, and colleagues and found them to have different, yet universally sympathetic, readings of Tipton's gender. In addition to examining what gender is, Suits Me also asks to whom it belongs: the individual or the people who interact with the individual. --Rebecca Brown --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
-?Lisa N. Johnston, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Professor Middlebrook's research has been thorough, and she has spoken with most of Tipton's living relatives, former wives, business partners and many other musicians of the era. What she reveals to her readers is a fully textured portrait of an era and a man who worked hard and earned every privilege he received. She lets us almost hear the music, taste the dust from the roads Billy and his bandmates and partners traveled. She lets the people who knew him comment on whether they thought he was a man or a woman. She lays out the mystery of how others perceived and ignored or challenged Billy's gender presentation, and the l! engths to which Billy went to protect his secret, which sometimes wasn't all that hidden.Read more ›
On the surface, this story does seem like fodder for Rod Serling. Billy Tipton was a riddle wrapped in an enigma, but his story is nonetheless quintessentially American. Nobody excels at reinvention quite as well as Americans. Reinventing oneself is part of the American dream, and as author Diane Middlebrook explains, Dorothy Tipton adopted male clothing and became Billy Tipton in order to pursue her dream of becoming a jazz artist. The chances of female instrumentalists for joining or fronting jazz bands were slim and none in 1935. But Billy/Dorothy was very versatile, likeable, and energetic and she parlayed her talents as a musician, arranger and showman into a respectable career, as the leader of small jazz combos in the Western U.S. Paradoxically, her fear of being exposed as a male impersonator, or "cross-dresser" in the parlance of the time, kept her mired in the semi-successful life of a musician who played "the circuit."
I think this book succeeds best as a portrait of Americana. Middlebrook does a fine job of capturing the flavor of Oklahoma, Kansas City, Spokane and the places in between that Billy traversed as a musician. She also delineates very well the fresh-scrubbed, impish, oddly sympathetic figure of Billy herself. Where she stumbles a bit is in her tendency to overanalyze, and to sometimes adopt the tone of Billy's risque and cheap humor within her own writing--she sometimes goes for the too easy and the too obvious turn of phrase.Read more ›
After reading it, I was curious to learn more. This review is intended to point other curious minds toward further resources:
If you want an opportunity to hear Billy Tipton play, some kind soul has made the songs from both albums freely available online. I've made a shortened link: bit.ly//Billy Tipton. Quite enjoyable soft jazz.
And if you want to know whatever happened to the family, I found a 2008 story from the Spokane Review about the settlement of Kitty Oakes' estate. Sadly, she was psychiatrically hospitalized at the end of her life due to dementia, and the couple's three adopted sons had to fight for the right to inherit her estate. Here's a shortened link to that story: bit.ly//KittyOakes.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The idea that Tipton was a "brilliant deceiver" shows the ignorance of transgender identity and lack of respect for Tipton by the author and editors. Read morePublished 12 months ago by jmps
It's not as exciting as I thought it would be, but it is a biography so it is a telling of his life.Published on September 25, 2013 by Erin H. Gonzales
As Billy Tipton was dying he forbade his son to call an ambulance. He did anyway. As Billy lay on the floor, paramedics attempted to revive him. Read morePublished on December 18, 2012 by Craig Rowland
I am familiar with Billy Tipton through his two records and a few magazine articles I had read in my early teens. Read morePublished on June 7, 2010 by RJ
I really was very interested in this story of Billy Tipton, a trans musician who kept his birth sex private until his death in 1989. Read morePublished on December 4, 2007 by Melissa K. Heckman
I read this book several years ago. I heard about the book on National Public radio, and the story was irresistable. I loved the book, and have since told the story to many people. Read morePublished on March 3, 2007 by Porter House
I am always on the lookout for interesting books. I got the recommendation from Bob Dylan's show "Theme Time Radio" and I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical about Tipton's... Read morePublished on February 11, 2007 by Oenophile