After I begged for a review copy of Jenny Boylan’s 10th anniversary edition of She’s Not There, I received a pleasant surprise in the box. Also included was a hardcover copy of her newest offering, Stuck In the Middle With You: Parenting in 3 Genders. Now, I’ve come to notice that my book reviews are about as popular as my mother-in-law when she cracks open a can of sardines on the plane, but I can’t let this go without saying something about it. After all, it was pretty fantastic.
The format of Stuck (what I’m going to call it in lieu of the usual convention of using the acronym SITMWY:PI3G for economy of letters) ran a little differently than She’s Not There in a few ways. For one, instead of a strictly linear narrative, there are interviews with several personages of greater or lesser note on the topic of parenting. I thought these were good additions to the topic, but I’ll speak more on them later. The rest was a direct continuation of the first work, though this time with names reverted back to original to unprotect both the innocent and directly affiliated. Fortunately she explains this well enough that even the most easily confused among us can follow.
I’m going to start with a huge positive about this work. For those of us who have been through, are in the middle of, or contemplating transition, the Jenny we met in She’s Not There was the cats ass in the transgender world. While suffering the same dysphoria most of us are familiar with, she still managed to survive, marry and stay with her partner, and worked her way into stellar career as professor, departmental co-chair, and author. Add to this that she seems to have achieved total passability microseconds after kicking off transition, and got to go on Oprah. In Stuck, however, we get to see a different side of Jenny that I found far more gratifying and endearing.
In her new work, she is willing to show her vulnerability in issues outside of transition allowing the reader, or at least myself, to have a far easier time identifying with her. Aside from living what would appear to be a picture perfect life in a very non-Stevenkingesque Maine making delicious sounding pizza all the time, she recounts struggles that many of us are well familiar with. Children who bring us to the edge of insane rage, the feeling of having one’s heart walking around outside their body and seeing it crash into a gully, and even the temptation breach years of celibacy out of a yearning to finally test drive the new equipment. Where we admire and seek to be like the Jenny from She’s Not There, we can feel like the Jenny in Stuck really is one of us.
The interviews I have mixed feelings about. Each of them explored a different aspect of the parenting experience and came from very different points of view. While each was enlightening in and of itself, I did feel that a few of them only had the most loose affiliations with the overall theme of the book. While gold in a general book about perspectives in parenting, some shown through as tarnished silver in a book that sold itself as being about parenting in 3 genders as the subtitle suggests. My favorite was the interview with Dr Christine McGinn, and I’ll be honest, I skipped ahead and read this first before anything else. I can also admit I’m biased here as she is going to be doing my surgery this fall, and any insight I can get about someone who is going to poking and snipping around in an area I’m super sensitive about is going to make me feel better.
Her writing, as always, is very engaging and continuously invites the reader to keep moving forward without resorting to hackneyed tactics like cliff-hangers. She paints a vivid picture with her words, and there is great clarity of what she is trying to convey. At the same time, the material is very thought provoking, allowing the readers to imagine themselves in her shoes, creating a minor conflict as whether to continue reading on or ruminate for a little bit. I like this because it’s suited for any mood; something harder to accomplish than commonly acknowledged.
This book is very much for you if you are transgender, transgender with children, or simply a parent of any gender demographic. The common experience translates across all. If any of these are you, I would highly recommend picking this up and having yourself an enjoyable and educational read. If you are confirmed childless, single, or either and cisgender, this may not hold your interest to the same degree as the aforementioned populations. It is not for me to say you will not gain anything from this as I think it would broaden your horizons and worldview, but I can’t guarantee the same level of enjoyment if the material is too foreign. I would imagine very few readers of this blog fall into that category, but still.