- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books; 2 Reprint edition (April 30, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385346972
- ISBN-13: 978-0385346979
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 296 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders Paperback – April 30, 2013
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Boylan, English professor and author of the critically acclaimed novels The Constellations (1994), The Planets (1991), and Getting In (1998), began life as a male named James Boylan. In this autobiography, she details her lifelong struggle with her burgeoning femaleness and the path she followed to become a female, both physically and mentally. For 40 years, the author lived as a man, seemingly happy and even marrying a woman and fathering two children. At a certain point, though, she realized that she couldn't suppress her desire to live as a female and so eventually went through all the steps to become female, including sexual reassignment surgery. There is something troubling about Boylan's lighthearted tone, and while she hints at it, there is no really clear depiction of the havoc this transition must have wreaked on her married life (Boylan's wife was clearly devastated) and on her children (who at times refer to her as boygirl or maddy). But Boylan's well-written and informative book is a worthy contribution to the body of work on this subject. Kathleen Hughes
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“She’s Not There, the Running with Scissors of sex-change stories, brings irreverence and a merrily outrageous sense of humor to this potentially serious business.”
—Janet Maslin, New York Times
“Beautifully crafted, fearless, painfully honest, inspiring, and extremely witty. Jennifer Finney Boylan is an exquisite writer with a fascinating story, and this combination has resulted in one of the most remarkable, moving, and unforgettable memoirs in recent history.”
—Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors and Dry
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Top customer reviews
Perhaps what makes this one of the best books on the subject is her uncanny sense of wit and juxtaposition of her histories.
Because of this book, I have pre-ordered her next fictional novel, due out in April.
i enjoyed the book, and i might have learned a few things. i enjoyed the writing, and the description of what it is like to be this particular 'other'. the author and her bestie discuss what identity is in terms of choosing who to present as. but my experience has been more like discovering what i am - not who. self is known; the details are murky. i appreciate fine writing that shows the struggle, the confusion, the weirdness of it all in a society that is very very sure that identity is static, and of course is very very wrong.
as for the attitude / altitude in the book, i have that optimism as well. it stays there, enhancing my emotional baseline, always. i'm not trans, but i am a lesbian, and my husband left me for a straight woman, and .... i had stayed, for years. i would have stayed forever [ even now, 9 years later]. so i understand jenny's staying part, and maybe a small part of a possible not staying part, and perhaps some of 'grace's staying part, and a lot of the 'buoyancy' part.
it seems very clear that 'grace' and jenny have a really good marriage, a close, positive marriage, and so it's not surprising that she acted as she did. she suffered, she lived, she managed; what most of us do in our dramas, large and small. she was inclined that way.
i do believe that women tend to stay, while men leave, for very complex reasons. while i appreciated her words, i'm sad that 'grace' felt she should write her response because of all the shouting and 'not fair's ostensibly on her behalf.
trans and the rest of the queer rainbow have never, ever been all that weird to me. i am just lucky, that way, i guess. i never struggled with that part of my identity, but it is obvious that some people do. but the weirdest thing to me is that strangers struggle - and argue with - someone else's identity. and i don't mean when someone is in the closet. i mean a stated, struggled for identity, and here are friends, family, colleagues, etc., proclaiming that it's not so because they don't believe it or haven't felt it, or whatever denial mechanism they feel they need. i don't believe in jesus, but it's abundantly clear that many people do, why argue? but i guess that's what makes this a book, and not a moment.
it's a well-written book. i like how it dances thru time, i like the buoyancy. i like the afterword by jenny's friend. i love how it all comes together.
at times, however, was also curiously amateurish for a seasoned writer. Sometimes there was too much extraneous detail about the activities of the family, too many dates and facts, no one but a schedule book needs to know; often the faux pas made by an amateur. Also, Ms. Boylan kept repeating how known she was for her humor, but I didn't find the book particularly funny. I totally empathize with her and her life struggle, and believe she has successfully accomplished her mythical hero's quest to find her true identity. But I felt deeper insights and nuance were lacking. I also think it was a major mistake to ask her friend Richard Russo to write a chapter from his point of view. This felt like a distracting intrusion. Unfortunately, Russo's prose was so much sharper and philosophically penetrating than Boylan's, that it made Boylan's pale by comparison. I get that they are super friends, but it's not a good idea to invite your friend to enter your book and then steal it. Also, I don't think Russo had anything particularly new or insightful to say. He reacted rather typically. It's just that he expressed this so well. All in all, the book raised interesting conundrums visa vie gender and identity. It would be a good text for a course on this subject, though I still think Morris said it deeper and better.