SHE’S NOT THERE by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Kirkus Star


A Life in Two Genders
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The limpid, soul-rich story of novelist James Boylan (Getting In, 1998, etc.) becoming Jennifer Boylan.

From early on, Boylan says, the idea “that I was in the wrong body, living the wrong life, was never out of my conscious mind—never.” In the beautifully guileless way he has of describing his feelings, he recounts wearing women’s clothes—“I’d stand around thinking, this is stupid, why am I doing this, and then I’d think, because I can’t not.” Because he has mercifully inherited the buoyant optimism of his mother, an optimism that will serve him well over the years to come, he is able to recount, with comic aplomb, such tidbits as, “Earlier in the evening I’d sat on a chair in that room wearing a bra and reading Lord of the Rings.” He was 16. He figured if he had sex, then his sense of himself might change, or if he fell in love, maybe then. Well, he does fall in love, with the remarkable Grace, and they have children, and he gets tenure and high marks from his students at Colby, and develops a close friendship with novelist Richard Russo, also teaching at Colby. And he still wants to be a woman. In writing as sheer as stockings, artful without artifice, he explains the process of becoming Jennifer: both the physiological, which has a comfortable tactility, and the emotional repercussions among his nearest and dearest. These aren’t so easy—his wife’s saying, “I want what I had”; his children thinking of him, in the midst of hormonal makeover, as “boygirl”; Russo telling him that Jennifer “seems mannered, studied, implausible.” Yet they all manage the sticky web of circumstance—this mysterious condition—in their own fashion, and that makes them lovable. There’s a particularly poignant moment, when they’re attending a wedding and Grace turns to Jennifer, asking if she wants to dance.

Serious, real, funny. Told so disarmingly that it’s strong enough to defang a taboo. (Photographs)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-7679-1404-X
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2003


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