“Live a life steeped in experiences.” That’s what my tea bag therapist said this morning. I’m not sure what to make of that advice, considering I have been passing each day as if waiting for something, but not exactly sure what.
I keep going back to the hospital for x-rays and answering mind-throttling questions like, “when did you break your back? How long have you been having extremity nerve pain?” Nearly passing out from lack of comprehension, I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t, but at that moment I sat there in silence with a stuck-in-dumb expression on my face. Yes, my back hurts from time to time, but broken? Yes, I have been complaining about my hands and feet falling asleep, but pain? I was there to get my protruding rib cage scrutinized. Now they tell me it’s a nodule on my lung and abnormally high white blood cell counts. “Probably a viral infection,” the nurse said of my white blood cell count. This was before the nodule on my left lung (25% malignant cancer) was a reality via CT scan. Are the two related? Am I falling to pieces? Sure feels that way. In the meantime, I have buried myself in books:
Fiction (Lots of books for kids and young adults):
- David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd (AB): a book for children, added in honor of Fantasy Month.
- The Pinballs By Betsy Byars: another kids book added in honor of Adoption month.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.
- Martin Dressler: the Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (EB).
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller.
- She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah.
- Expecting Adam: the Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Magic by Martha Beck (AB)
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett.
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).