- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (Aug. 10 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0767914295
- ISBN-13: 978-0767914291
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 249 g
- Average Customer Review: 36 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,521,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders Paperback – Aug 10 2004
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"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
"In addition to being a complete delight, this book should make us all question what we mean when we use the words love, marriage, and friendship. Jennifer Finney Boylan is a great gift to womanhood."
--Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy
From the Inside Flap
The provocative bestseller Shes Not There is the winning, utterly surprising story of a person changing genders. By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. Told in Boylans fresh voice, Shes Not There is about a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret. Through her clear eyes, Shes Not There provides a new window on the confounding process of accepting our true selves.
Probably no book Ive read in recent years has made me so question my basic assumptions about both the centrality and the permeability of gender, and made me recognize myself in a situation Ive never known and have never faced . . . The universality of the astonishingly uncommon: thats the trick of Shes Not There. And with laughs, too. What a good book. Anna Quindlen, from the Introduction to the Book-of-the-Month-Club edition.
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The former James Boylan knew he was a she for as long as he knew anything about such roles. He grew up thinking love was going to cure him, and he did fall in love, very happily. "Here at last we shall leave all of this and move onward with this new life, finally, miraculously, _healed_." He married, had two sons, and had his successful academic career. But he was not healed. At age forty, he determined that he would began his transition into a body that would match his inner gender. His wife, Grace, could not understand it; she accepted initially some of his cross-dressing (always remember, those who cross-dress are not necessarily those who feel they are in the wrong sex, nor is either category to be confused with homosexuality), but quite logically, she grieved for the prospective loss of the man she loved. Faced with his desire to make a biological change, Grace turns out to be a real heroine, and Boylan knows it; Boylan's love for her throughout the book is obvious. He was as open as he could be with his sons, assuring them that the change reflected no change in his love for them, and that such a change was rare and was not what they themselves were in for. In may ways, the change was hardest for his best friend, the novelist Rick Russo, who puts a moving afterword to the book, a tribute to their friendship, and a meditation on just how badly changes can go if you don't have friends around to help.
Eventually, Boylan, with Grace and Russo, goes to a surgeon who is one of the best in the business. After all, Boylan joked to Russo, "If you're in the market for new genitalia, you really don't want to shop in the bargain basement." Dr. Schrang promised as a goal that he would make her "sensate, mucosal and orgasmic," and the surgery seems to have managed all three. The three friends got through it. Boylan and Grace are still married, and still want to be, although one of the curiosities of the situation is that if now they wished to marry, they could not. There are times in this comic memoir, full of irony and gender puzzles, when the value of friendship shines brilliantly through in a deeply moving way. Let me give the last word to Grace, whom Boylan hears on the phone, telling someone, "Whatever else you say about my husband, she's a remarkable woman."
Both Jennifer and Grace are brutally honest in how they feel; at times I found their honesty almost too painful to read.
But shouldn't everyone have a friend like Richard Russo! What a supportive and thoroughly caring person he is. Boylan's best friend, he writes a warm and loving afterward to this story.
Boylan has unique insights into transsexuality. She talks about how male-to-female transsexuals, including herself, often behave like preteen girls when they begin transitioning, and how, for this reason, they're accused of not being "real women." But she has rebuttals: people always resent those to whom the world feels new and exciting, and transgendered people are under more intense and unforgiving scrutiny for their human flaws.
There was a fascinating discussion, the likes of which I've never seen before, written from the perspective of the two novelists, Boylan and Russo. They said it doesn't matter if a story is actually real. What matters is how it's told. A poorly told story can seem implausible despite its actual veracity. Likewise, transsexuals may feel that their chosen gender is "real," but may actually have been more talented at acting their birth gender role. People will feel uncomfortable around them because their presentation doesn't seem authentic. It's the gender presentation that other people respond to, not the transsexual's alleged "true" feelings.
But Boylan's philosophy is interjected judiciously; this is more memoir than theory. And excellent memoir at that. She's an English professor who plays in a band, picks up hitchhikers, and referees small children in magic shops. She's also, with the publication of this personal story, made a major contribution for transsexuals and the people who love them. Worth a thorough read.
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"She's not there" is a great primer, of sorts, for those outside...Read more