Thursday, January 7, 2016
Throwback Thursday: She's Not There
In which I share vague recollections about books I read long ago that have stuck with me.
I've mentioned Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir before, on my list Memoirs I Didn't Hate and more recently on Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity. But given how frequently I recommend it, I thought that She's Not There finally deserves its own post.
I've always felt pretty lukewarm about memoirs. It seems like the people who write them either have a good story or writing talent, but not usually both. She's Not There is one of the first memoirs I read that had both.
Significantly, it was also the first thing I read that described the transgender experience in a way that made sense to me. I probably won't ever understand it completely, the same way I won't completely understand being black or disabled or a fundamentalist Christian. We simply can't always put ourselves in someone else's shoes. But before reading this I had frustrating questions because transgender people were always the ones who played with the wrong toys as a kid or wore the wrong clothes, and that's not what gender is. Those things are social constructs, and I couldn't understand why you'd change your body so you could wear a dress. Boylan described it more like body dysmorphia which made SO MUCH more sense to me. Honestly, it was kind of a relief to read this book.
Boylan has also more recently written a memoir called Stuck in the Middle With You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders. It includes not only her own story, but interviews with many other people including Richard Russo, Augusten Burroughs, and Anna Quindlen and from what I hear is a pretty insightful examination about parenting and family. She also wrote a memoir called I'm Looking Through You, which is about growing up in a haunted house.
Have you read any of her books? What did you think?