I Rise-The Transformation of Toni Newman Paperback – Large Print, April 14, 2011
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Paperback : 232 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1461007097
- ISBN-13 : 978-1461007098
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.55 x 9 inches
- Publisher : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; LRG edition (April 14, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,812,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The content of this book was mostly what I expected, but I didn’t expect how much I would enjoy reading it. The long all-caps title, cover, and somewhat dated back cover copy (transgender used as a noun is deprecated and “sissy boy” is obviously derogatory) made me think it might be cheesy, but Toni has a warm, natural writing voice that draws you in and makes you feel like you’re talking to her in person. The language isn’t flowery, but the goal of this book seems to be to tell her story in a straightforward way that’s easy to understand.
I will say there’s a lot of sex in this book, so I would recommend it for adults and mature teens only. Newman doesn’t go into graphic detail in the sex scenes, but it’s interesting to see how different lovers reacted to her dressing up in women’s clothing differently. Newman was always effeminate, but she didn’t know she wanted to transition genders until she was an adult. In her teens, she was a gay man, and she always wanted to wear women’s clothing while having sex.
I Rise follows her from high school to college to white collar career to bodybuilding career to escorting to being a dominatrix to starting law school. Toni Newman has had quite a life and it’s fascinating to read about.
Before reading this, I didn’t know how homophobic and transphobic the black community could be. I thought marginalized people would be more tolerant, but that’s not always the case… LGBT people in black communities are often kicked out by their parents or ostracized by peers. They face the same hardships as those in white communities, if not more so. Newman’s parents were very Christian and didn’t understand her gender and sexual identities. Her partners seemed to receive her cross-dressing pretty well, but they would usually keep their relationship a secret because people would judge them.
“My white friend came from a family with money who were somewhat understanding. They had helped her finish school and had sponsored her transition from male to transsexual to post-op transsexual. That was unheard of in the black transsexual community. Most had no support. They ventured out on their own at an early age with barely a high school diploma.”
My favorite parts of the book were Newman’s descriptions of her lovers. Her first relationship with a boy is so sweet! He dresses her up in women’s clothing and is totally supportive of her. Each of her descriptions of the different men makes them come alive on the page. Certain parts of dialogue in particular stick in my head (I don’t want to spoil it though…).
Newman’s story is pretty inspirational, and I think that’s one of her goals with this book. She resisted pressure do drugs or have unprotected sex while she was an escort and came back from the economic underworld to work in the corporate world. She has a few rules at the end that seem like they would be helpful for young people.
I did have a little bit of “fridge logic” after I finished reading this… Newman has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and worked in business, academia, and fitness, but when she decided to transition it sounds like she went right into prostitution. She doesn’t mention in the book anything about interviewing for other white collar jobs, though the movie version called Heart of a Woman shows her in a job interview. I get the impression that that was just the thing one did at the time if they were transitioning, but I’d be curious to know why she decided to go that route when she already had credentials. Perhaps it was to further explore her gender identity and sexuality?
One criticism I have is that I think she shouldn’t have leaned so hard on Maya Angelou… I Rise and Heart of a Woman are both quotes from Maya Angelou. I know those were meaningful for her, and she studied with Maya Angelou in college, but I think this book would stand out more and seem more legit if the author had given it a more original title. However, maybe more people will find Newman’s work as they look for Angelou’s?
I don’t have any other criticisms and I feel like this memoir does a great job of walking the line between self-pity and self-aggrandizement. Toni Newman looks back on both the good and the bad in her life with the perspective of time. I thought it was interesting that she praises the strength her Christian upbringing gave her at the same she acknowledges that her religious background kept her from realizing and accepting herself as gay and then transgender.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who likes stories about real people. I can’t say for sure if all the events are true, but they sound realistic and that realistic feeling can make for an engrossing read!
Should be read by everyone; especially those outside of the LGBTQ community. Sometimes we truly do not know the pain we cause.
At the end of the day, we are all human beings. We should never forget that.
Thank you Toni Newman for sharing your story.