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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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