She’s Not There

Boylan, Jennifer Finney. She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders. New York: Broadway Books, 2003.

Reason read: Transgender Awareness Week happens in November. Confessional: I bumped this one up the list because I needed a Maine author for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

You could start off by simply stating She’s Not There is the true story of a person changing. You could leave it at that and it would be the absolute truth. But in She’s Not There Jennifer Finney Boylan is funny, smart, candid, and above all else, deeply moving when telling her from-he-to-she story. From an early age, Boylan knew the boy body he was born into wasn’t his true self. He found satisfaction significant  into his mother’s closet and not just trying on the clothes, but spending significant time in them. Despite all attempts to “cure” himself, Boylan truly felt whole and happy as a girl. She’s Not There follows Boylan on a bittersweet journey to say goodbye to Jim and hello to Jenny.

As an aside, Boylan is also a musician, so it was fun to compile a list of songs mentioned in She’s Not There as a kind of soundtrack for the book.

Lines I liked, “We read a wide range of stuff, most of it having to do with people trying to find the courage to do something impossible” (p 4), “In spite of the nearly constant sense I was the wrong person, I was filled with a simultaneous hopefulness and cheer that most people found annoying” (p 31), and I hadn’t been cured by love yet, but at this moment I felt as if I  might be, if only I sat there long enough” (p 243).

Author fact: Boylan is a professor at Colby College. An even more trivial fact, Jenny befriended Bruce Jenner after his transition. Her no nonsense advice to Caitlyn Jenner is priceless.

Book trivia: Boylan includes pictures if herself from 1974, 1999 and 2001.

Nancy said: Pearl said she read She’s Not There in one sitting. She was unable to pull herself away from the memoir she found moving and funny (More Book Lust p 97).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gender Bending” (p 97).


Two Plays and a Premise

Dennis, Nigel. Two Plays and a Premise: Cards of Identity and The Making of Moo. New York: The Vanguard Press, 1958.

Reason read: March is National Read month. I’m reading this just because.

The entire story centers around the Identity Club, a group of psychoanalysts who come together once a year to discuss phony identity cases which don’t involve real patients. At the same time, the local townspeople are being brainwashed into believing they are servants for the psychologists. They lose their identities in order to serve the whims of the shrinks. The end of the story, which I never got to, involves a Shakespearean play. For me, the plot disintegrated midway through the story and I gave up. It started off great. The slow brain washing was sinister in places. Miss Paradise’s brother goes missing and she doesn’t recognize him as the therapists’s servant. Or calling the doctor by different names in order to confuse him. Both scenarios were funny and evil and brilliant.

Confessional: I was supposed to read the full length novel of the same title but I ordered the play instead. By the time I noticed my mistake it was too late. I never would have been able to finish the 300+ page novel in time so I stuck with the play.

Line I liked, “Many a man’s life has been thrown away through the mumbling of his survivors” (p 61).

Author fact: Nigel wrote a smattering of other books but this is the only one I am supposed to read for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Card of Identity is both a novel and a play. For the latter it becomes a play within a play.

Nancy said: Nancy listed Cards of Identity as one of her faves (p 33).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the odd chapter called “The Book Lust of Others” (p 33). Cards of Identity was discovered in Writer’s Choice: A Library of Rediscoveries compiled by Linda Sternberg Katz and Bill Katz.


I am Not Who I Say I am

I am not who I am say I am…or rather my mother isn’t who she says she is. At least not last Monday. I now know where I get IT from. Those closest to me will know exactly what I mean when I say, “I just had IT a minute ago!” or “I can’t find my…[fill in the blank]!” I am notorious for losing things despite having them in my possession moments before. I’ve mastered the ability to lose things so well it’s become an art form for me. No one is surprised to see me dig through a bag for minutes on end looking for misplaced keys; wander around the apartment looking for shoes; search cabinets and counters for lost cups of coffee. I think that’s the real reason I don’t wear a watch.

But, here’s the thing. I now know where I get it from. I always had my suspicions it was a genetic thing – handed down from matriarch to daughter. Now I have the proof. This weekend my mother came to visit. Managed to get herself here by bus without an ID. Sweet talked the bus driver in little ole Maine, I’m sure. Somehow she got herself here without having to prove who she was to anyone. Her excuse? She left her ID in “the other bag.” My words exactly. I say that all the time. I could have been standing before her and admitting the same thing. We had a little laugh over the forgotten ID, added an eye roll and an “Oh mom!” and forgot all about it. Until Sunday night when mom asked, “Now, how do I buy a ticket back?” Ummmm….Errrr…Hmm. I don’t know.

We ended up doing the old bait and switch. I have never been one to be tied down to identity. A name doesn’t mean all that much in my view of the world. So when mom became me and I became nobody it was if I had been born to play the part. I handed the ticket to the driver. I got on the bus. And someone else drove away.