A passionate, eloquent memoir about how “complex stories of humanity [and] our capacity for imagination are what give us...

A transgender man chronicles his physical and psychological transition.

In 2017, author and social justice activist Carl (Artist-in-Residence/Emerson Coll.) was just seven months into testosterone hormone therapy when he began to be addressed as “sir” by service staff at a Manhattan hotel. It was a celebratory moment for the author, who was then just shy of his 51st birthday. Born Polly in Elkhart, Indiana, Carl spent “decades trying to know her, shape her into something that I can bear to live with,” but his life as a female was a futile battle with a persistent biological need to be male, which led to depression, rage, and multiple suicide attempts. Carl’s family life was equally complex and traumatic. He writes lucidly of early abusive behavior by his parents and, later in life, how their confusion and transphobia made becoming their son an uphill battle. His transition also began eroding his marriage when he completed an elective double mastectomy in 2013, yet his desperate need to finally “see more dimension to the world” and connect to his true gender persisted despite despair and misinterpretation. Throughout the memoir, Carl examines the nature of toxic and fragile masculinity and acknowledges lifelong issues with the problematic male gender. “I want to punch men long before I become a man,” he admits. Combining political debate and discourse on gender equality, the author’s elegant yet powerful prose will hopefully promote action from readers. His reflective memories often read like poetry, as when describing his own private process as an “evolving bodily transubstantiation where in one moment I am material subject matter to be consumed and in another I feel like a holy essence, my body and blood both sacrificed and blessed into being.” This moving narrative illuminates the joy, courage, necessity, and risk-taking of his gender transition and the ways his loved ones became affected and eventually enriched by it.

A passionate, eloquent memoir about how “complex stories of humanity [and] our capacity for imagination are what give us hope.”

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982105-09-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019


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



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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