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A memoir infused with personality and the ballsy honesty of someone for whom becoming a man was “the most natural thing in...

Sublime confidence and spirit distinguishes this unorthodox memoir of gender and identity.

Novelist Cooper (The Beaufort Diaries, 2010, etc.) establishes his point of view early on when describing himself as a droll, outspoken, Jewish, darker-skinned man who has undergone gender reassignment surgery. Wholly at ease in his own skin, he unleashes a flood of provocatively opinionated, informative slices of his life as a fully transitioned female-to-male American. With lively writing throughout, Cooper presents haiku pieces, childhood memories and the “sitting down to urinate” debate creatively interwoven with frank discussions of transgender violence, poignant commentary from his wife, who constantly fears for her husband’s safety (they live in a “decidedly conservative and religious” Southern state), and the author’s innermost fears. Cooper also shares varied versions of a revealing 2009 letter to his parents explaining how their daughter is now (and has always been) “basically a dude.” Extended interviews with “seasoned tranny” Kate Bornstein, Cooper’s brother (a member of the LAPD) and the parents of other transgendered acquaintances are probing, entertaining and revealing. The author’s inner journey toward self-awareness seems to have been relatively smooth, other than a series of conversational minefields he encounters regularly when discussing his gender identity with others. But chapters on his own personal confusion and uncertainty demonstrate a distinct consciousness for the paradoxical nature of the transgender experience at large.

A memoir infused with personality and the ballsy honesty of someone for whom becoming a man was “the most natural thing in the world.”

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-938073-00-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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