A compassionate portrait of self-acceptance and gender identity.


Dear Mom and Dad


McGowen’s debut memoir traces the dual-gendered writer’s gradual realization that two singular souls, George and Georgia, “just happen to coexist” in the same body.

From a young age, George McGowen could sense, though not articulate, a split in his consciousness. Like other boys, he idolized Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, but he also felt more comfortable hanging out with girls. As an adult, George now knows he is dual-gendered—meaning he shares “a combined life” and body with a woman named Georgia. In an inspired twist, Georgia narrates the story of George’s life, often adding her colorful commentary to incidents such as little George’s first recognizing, with “a mix of his amazement and my jealousy,” that his anatomy differed from girls’. “There’s only one of me,” Georgia says. “I just happen to coexist in a male body with an equally singular man.” Though Georgia occasionally emerged during George’s childhood and adolescence—secretly dressing in his mother’s clothes as a kid, donning drag during his college fraternity’s skit night—George for the most part lived a buttoned-up Protestant life under controlling, conservative parents. After flunking out of college, George married a woman he impregnated, giving way to 12 tumultuous years that ended in a long-winded divorce. Soon thereafter, he met the love of his life, Marilyn Simms. Together, they indulged in copious amounts of cocaine and booze, which unlocked the dormant Georgia from George’s subconscious. Georgia terrified many of George’s friends, including Marilyn and George’s eventual AA sponsor, who encouraged him to ward off his impulses with a mantra of “Get thee behind me Satan.” McGowen’s book gracefully weaves together these stories of reconciliation: between George and Georgia; among George, Georgia, and Marilyn; and between McGowen and her Christian faith. Georgia’s road to acceptance takes compelling detours into everything from mourning a loved one to caring for a partner with manic depression. Though the book is engaging, it is stretched out due to a weakness for unnecessary detail: “The remainder of 1978 was reasonably uneventful. From the notes in his Daytimer, it appears that he and the kids flew to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving.”

A compassionate portrait of self-acceptance and gender identity.

Pub Date: July 6, 2012


Page Count: 272

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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