Review ~ Stuck in the Middle with You

This book was provided to me by Crown Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Cover via Goodreads

A father for ten years, a mother for eight, and for a time in between, neither, or both (“the parental version of the schnoodle, or the cockapoo”), Jennifer Finney Boylan has seen parenthood from both sides of the gender divide. When her two children were young, Boylan came out as transgender, and as Jenny transitioned from a man to a woman and from a father to a mother, her family faced unique challenges and questions. In this thoughtful memoir, Jenny asks what it means to be a father, or a mother, and to what extent gender shades our experiences as parents. “It is my hope,” she writes, “that having a father who became a woman in turn helped my sons become better men.”

Through both her own story and incredibly insightful interviews with others, including Richard Russo, Edward Albee, Ann Beattie, Augusten Burroughs, Susan Minot, Trey Ellis, Timothy Kreider, and more, Jenny examines relationships with fathers and mothers, people’s memories of the children they were and the parents they became, and the many different ways a family can be. Followed by an Afterword by Anna Quindlen that includes Jenny and her wife discussing the challenges they’ve faced and the love they share, Stuck in the Middle with You is a brilliant meditation on raising – and on being – a child. (via Goodreads)

I read Jennifer Finney Boylan’s first memoir, She’s Not There, about her transition from male to female back in 2004. It’s an articulate book, devoid of sensationalism, about a topic that is beyond most people’s experience. Ultimately, it’s an autobiography that isn’t about being transsexual. It’s an autobiography about being a person.

Not surprisingly, Stuck in the Middle with You is about parenthood more than about being transsexual and a parent. Boylan wants what most parents want for their children: for them to grow up to be good people and not leave them with any burden. Against anecdotes from her children’s lives and her own childhood, she interviews other men and women about fatherhood and motherhood. What’s it like to have an absent parent? To be adoptive parents? To be gay and want children? To lose a child?  What’s the “norm”?

In the end, it seems the norm is what anyone has that works. “I don’t want to disappoint you,” one of her sons says one day, “I think I want to stop playing the tuba.” Boylan admits that she’s lucked out. Her world has been very accepting of her change, and that isn’t the case for many transsexuals. Her sons have seemingly avoided stigma as well and, after her first book and the publicity it generated, insisted that their mom use their real names in this book. But as any parent, any mother, Boylan still worries about her boys.

Like She’s Not There, Stuck in the Middle with You is well-written and humorous, though maybe lacking during the interviews. Boylan’s best talent is making her situation relatable.

Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan is slated for release on April 30th from Crown.

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir.
Why did I choose to read this book? Had read Boylan’s previous memoir, She’s Not There and enjoyed it.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes!
Format: Kindle ebook
Procurement: NetGalley ARC

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