A discerning, vital memoir.

Feminist film critic Haskell (Frankly, My Dear: Gone with the Wind Revisited, 2009, etc.) delves into the dramatic, deeply personal tale of her brother's transformation, in his early 60s, from a man into a woman.

Haskell's story opens in 2005, when her younger brother, Chevey, confessed, "For as long as I can remember, I've felt I should have been born female. And now I'm going to become one." Stunned, the author struggled to reconcile her knowing Chevey as a conservative and "manly" guy with his impending transsexuality. A semiretired financial adviser, Chevey appeared to be happily married to his wife of more than 20 years, but his desire to live as a woman had grown so fervent, he claimed that the only thing that would keep him from undergoing gender reassignment surgery was knowing he would die on the operating table. During the course of the book, Haskell's brother, her only immediate family other than her husband, becomes Ellen, the name Chevey called himself in his fantasy life. The difficult transformation required numerous surgeries, including multiple facial reconstructions, painful other procedures and a move across the country to start fresh as Ellen. Haskell's journey was obviously less arduous than Ellen's, but the two are equally compelling, in part due to the ways in which Ellen's choice acts as a catalyst for Haskell's initial discomfort, growth and acceptance. With candor and sly humor, the author questions her ideas about womanhood and considers the relationship between gender and identity as they relate to Ellen, herself, and myriad films and other aspects of popular culture. At the heart of this intelligent memoir lies the process through which Ellen’s transsexualism became, then faded from being, the primary fact of the siblings' respective lives.

A discerning, vital memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-02552-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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