November Numbness

“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.

Nonfiction:

  • 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)

Series continuation:

  • Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett.

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).


By May

I thought May was going to be a disaster. The first two and a half weeks were nothing but rain and way cooler temps. I worried about my garden. I didn’t feel like running. It felt like a downward spiral. I ended up running only 28 miles and running away to Monhegan for a week so it ended better than it began. But…it’s still raining.

“…when May is rushing over you with desire to be part of the miracles you see in every hour” ~ Natalie Merchant, These are Days.

“I wanted to be there by May, at the latest. April is over. Can you tell me how long before I can be there?” ~ Natalie Merchant, Painted Desert.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • H by Elizabeth Shepard (read in one day)
  • Nerve by Dick Francis (read in two days)
  • A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller

Nonfiction:

  • Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves
  • Age of Gold by HW Brands
  • Lusitania: an epic tragedy by Diana Preston

Series continuation:

  • “Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (finished the series)
  • As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee (okay, so I didn’t know this was part of a trilogy).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • At the Broken Places by Mary and Donald Collins

At the Broken Places

Collins, Mary and Donald Collins. At the Broken Places: a Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces. Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.

Reason read: for the Early Review Program through LibraryThing

The concept for At the Broken Places is unique. Mother and son tell a collaborative story of Donald Collins’s transition from daughter to son & all of the emotional upheaval they endured together (and apart) along the way. Because of their opposing viewpoints it must have been a very difficult time for both of them. This definitely make At the Broken Places a more dynamic story.
As an aside, it was interesting to read between the lines and hear what wasn’t being said. Mary indicated names are powerful and matter a great deal when she explained that at sixteen her daughter was “J” and referred to as She. When “J” insisted on being called Donald her daughter was then referred to as He. Her son. The death of a name ushered in the death of a daughter. It is further revealed Mary held some resentment over the name “Donald Oliver” because it single-handedly wiped out memorializing her father (“J’s” shared his initials).

At the Broken Places could serve a wide audience: people facing similar situations; people who want to educate themselves; even people in positions of authority charged with changing the status quo.

If I could quote At the Broken Places I would definitely include what Donald said on page 15 and again later in the book. As an aside, I found his side of the story smart, articulate, sensitive and honest. That is not to say I didn’t find Mary’s voice appealing. She was just more slickly professional and less raw in her writing.