Book Review: She’s Not There

She's Not There: A Life in Two GendersTitle: She’s Not There: a life in two genders

Author:  Jennifer Finney Boylan

Publisher:  Broadway Books

Copyright Date:  October 2003

Number of Pages:       300

Reason for Reading:   The topic intrigued me

Grade:  A

Aunt Nora, what would you do if I told you I didn’t feel like myself, but like someone else? Well, not someone else, exactly, but myself, me as a girl. It’s the person everyone thinks I am that isn’t real.

What would she have said? Would she have put me on a stool and have me raise my arms into the air and take my soundings with a tape measure? Would she have taught me how to sew, how to make darts and pleats? Would she have shown me how to curl my hair, how to make cookies shaped like dogs, how to move through the world as a woman bearing an inconceivable grief? It’s all right, Jennifer. You just try not to think about it.

But I remained silent. I knew what she’d say.

JenniferBoylan, author, professor, musician, spouse, parent—plenty of different roles to play, plenty of different hats to wear.  But the biggest hat of all was the one she wore every day, that of the body that betrayed her gender. She hoped that love would cure her and she did indeed find love, a wonderful wife, friends, children, but they were not, in the end, enough. She tried living life as the woman she felt herself to be, and it felt right. She ended up having sex reassignment surgery so that she could be a woman, body and soul.

WHAT I LIKED:  Boylan comes across as honest and transparent with the reader. She wasn’t honest and transparent, however, with her friends and family for quite some time. I definitely got a sense of how difficult it all was for her. I also appreciated how difficult it was for her wife and best friend as they tried to figure out these new relationships. For Boylan they seemed the same, wife was still wife, and best friend was still best friend, because for Boyland nothing had changed except the body her female soul was living in.  For her wife, however, things were agonizing. Her best friend also struggled because he could not help but relate to her differently as Jenny than as James.

It’s a good book, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. Of course I want to know a lot more, but I could sit and talk with her for hours and not be satisfied. Boylan definitely leaves the reader hungry for more.


About a thinker

I am. And today, that's good enough.
This entry was posted in Memoir, Nonfiction, Posts by Faith and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Book Review: She’s Not There

  1. izzybella says:

    Wow, difficult topic. It would be worth reading just to see how her family and friends adjusted to the change. Good review.

    • She really respects the privacy of her wife, so there wasn’t as much of her experiences shared as I’d have liked. Of course, I respect that she respects it, so it all kind of runs together.

  2. jehara says:

    I had a friend in college who was a lesbian who dated girls. Eventually she changed her name to a boy’s name and started identifying as male. At that time she took off and left the state. I don’t know if he ever had surgery or took hormones, but I do know that he still identifies as male. This would be a very interesting read.

    • Interesting. I read Chaz Bono’s book (Transition) a week ago, and he describes things similarly. When he was young, he felt like he was a boy, but Cher kept pressuring him to be girly. So then as he got older, he identified as a lesbian, and was involved in relationships with other women, but he always was very masculine. Reading his thoughts as to how he came to the realisation that he wasn’t a lesbian woman, but a man was very illuminating.

      I have to say that I have a lot of respect for transgendered people who are able to find a way to be true to themselves while at the same time showing so much compassion for their loved ones. And it grieves me that they are abused by small-minded people who don’t understand and don’t care to.

  3. Margot says:

    I’m not sure if the fuddy-duddy side of me would like this book. However, as I read your review I found myself concentrating more on the wife and kids and the adjustments they would have to make. I’ve read and heard enough of the humorous commentary on this subject. It’s time to look at the serious consequences of these actions on everyone involved. Sounds like this book is good for that.

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