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Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders [Hardcover]

Joy Ladin

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Book Description

March 15 2012 Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiog

Professor Jay Ladin made headlines around the world when, after years of teaching literature at Yeshiva University, he returned to the Orthodox Jewish campus as a woman—Joy Ladin. In Through the Door of Life, Joy Ladin takes readers inside her transition as she changed genders and, in the process, created a new self.
    With unsparing honesty and surprising humor, Ladin wrestles with both the practical problems of gender transition and the larger moral, spiritual, and philosophical questions that arise. Ladin recounts her struggle to reconcile the pain of her experience living as the “wrong” gender with the pain of her children in losing the father they love. We eavesdrop on her lifelong conversations with the God whom she sees both as the source of her agony and as her hope for transcending it. We look over her shoulder as she learns to walk and talk as a woman after forty-plus years of walking and talking as a man. We stare with her into the mirror as she asks herself how the new self she is creating will ever become real.
    Ladin’s poignant memoir takes us from the death of living as the man she knew she wasn’t, to the shattering of family and career that accompanied her transition, to the new self, relationships, and love she finds when she opens the door of life.

2012 Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award for Biography, Autobiography, or Memoir

“Wrenching—and liberating. . . .[it] opens up new ways of looking at gender and the place of LGBT Jews in community.”—Greater Phoenix Jewish News

“Given her high-profile academic position, Ladin’s transition was a major news story in Israel and even internationally. But behind the public story was a private struggle and learning experience, and Ladin pulls no punches in telling that story. She offers a peek into how daunting it was to learn, with little support from others, how to dress as a middle-aged woman, to mu on make-up, to walk and talk like a female. She provides a front-row seat for observing how one person confronted a seemingly impossible situation and how she triumphed, however shakingly, over the many adversities, both societal and psychological, that stood in the way.”—The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide

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“Ladin’s story is a deep, beautifully written exploration of her journey from being a man to becoming a woman.”—Lucy Bledsoe, author of The Big Bang Symphony, Ferro-Grumley Award finalist for LGBT fiction

“Joy Ladin’s book succeeds so well because it is anything but a trans tract; it is a fierce story of regular old human life: hideous choices, endless repercussions, occasional glory, frequent humiliation, abiding difficulty. It could have happened to us. She makes us believe it.”—Kay Ryan, former poet laureate of the United States, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry

"Not only a memoir of transgender experience, it's also a story of family heartbeak and family love; of growth as a teacher and writer; and, not least, of a self deeply connected to God and Judiasm throughout a life lived across genders."—Rabbi Jill Hammer, author of The Jewish Book of Days and director of spiritual education at the Academy for Jewish Religion

“Readers will be rewarded not only with an expanded understanding of a complicated choice but also a compelling and moving story of a person transitioning, not only from male to female but from a numb, suicidal 'nonexistence' to opening the 'door of life.' ”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Moving from living in misery to being joyful and grateful provided a profound, fundamental release from what she saw as a moral quandary. It’s the kind of resolve that makes her work reverberate with emotion, and her artful, thoughtful writing creates an even deeper resonance. . . . A cohesive, powerful memoir.”—ForeWord

“Joy Ladin’s Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders is a life-affirming and generous work—and one of the most compelling memoirs of recent years. . . . [S]he writes with beautiful clarity, humility and breathtaking candor.”—Jewish Woman Magazine

“No doubt about it, change was going to hurt. It would require, if not tears, then a kind of ripping of your soul, a new way of life, an alteration of outlook. . . . For author Joy Ladin, pain was exactly the reason for change. Pain had accompanied her for most of her days, but in her new book Through the Door of Life, she explains a journey that was, for her, long overdue.”—LGBT Weekly

“In painstakingly and painfully constructing her new self, Ladin is fully aware of the societal conventions and privileges of which she makes use. . . . But there seems to be a poignancy, of which Ladin is exquisitely aware, that precisely because what Ladin wants is so normal, her efforts to obtain it are so fraught with pain.”—Lambda Literary

About the Author

Joy Ladin, David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, is the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. She is the author of five books of poetry, including, most recently, Psalms and Coming to Life.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful story of starting over as what you were meant to be. March 28 2012
By Bob Lind - Published on
After teaching literature for many years at Yeshiva University, Jay Ladin became an instant gender activist, when she returned to the Orthodox Jewish campus as its first transgender employee, now Joy Ladin. Behind the headlines and talk show commentaries, Joy takes her readers into a touching, emotional memoir of her journey to and beyond that point, dealing with not just with her personal and family transformation, but reconciling this to her religion as well. She mourns the "death" of the man she once was, father to three children and husband to a woman who can't help but be bitter about Joy's "choices" in life.

The book takes the reader through her emotional, physical and social aspects of becoming a woman, the occasional roller-coaster effect of taking hormones, trying to maintain a realistic link (often dressed as the man she no longer considers herself to be) with her children, and battling the loneliness resulting from trying to carve out a new life with people who can somewhat understand and accept her. It's a powerful, well-written story, and recommended reading. Five stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going. Feb. 9 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"Sex Changes: A memoir of marriage, Gender, and moving on" is a better read and is really a good companion to this book. Not that Joy's book is bad it's just very personal and not really that interesting. The other book is written by her 'ex' and is a much more interesting read altogether. Read them both. Then you'll get the full picture.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read in years (and I read a lot!) March 30 2013
By David M Robinson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Read this memoir -- for Ladin's bravery, her hard-won insight into some of the most difficult, painful, and meaningful of life's questions and challenges, and for the beauty of her writing itself.

And, please, give it to anyone you think needs to learn to be even a bit more accepting of transgender people and to understand a bit more of what it is like for a transgender person to live in a still largely transphobic world.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars buy this book Jan. 28 2013
By glinda - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a beautifully written and deeply moving account of one person's transition from male to female. I have never read an account that illuminates the inner world of gender dysphoria so clearly. i am a psychologist whose caseload includes families with these issues, and I will use this book to help my community understand better not only the transpeople we encounter, but to help us better understand the gender continuum and our own humanity. Thank you, Joy.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing memoir Oct. 16 2012
By nightreader - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Starting at age six, "Jay" knew that "he" was in the wrong body and should have been a girl. In his forties, married with three kids and teaching at Yeshiva University, he decides to come out as a transsexual and make the transition to being a woman. Now known as "Joy," she takes the reader through her innermost thoughts and difficult experiences, with all the doubts and pains in such a radical change of life. As a published poet, her writing is engaging, poignant, and heartbreaking, yet at the same time uplifting. She tries to reconcile traditional Jewish teachings and her desire to be a good Jew. Her talks with her God speak to all of us, religious or not.

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