Stuck in the Middle with You:
A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders

by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Random House, 2013. ISBN 978-0-767-92176-3.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 06/05/2013

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships; Nonfiction: Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender

Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote about her transition from male to female in her memoir, She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders. She chose not to "revisit that aspect of things" in this memoir, because, as she writes, "The surgery is not the most important thing about any transgender person's story, dramatic and astonishing as it might be... Being trans—and sustaining a family—is about everything that comes before that moment, and everything after. That's where the story lies."

In Stuck in the Middle with You, Boylan writes of the years she was a father to two children, then was in transition from male to female, becoming a transgender woman known as Maddy to her children.

The book opens with a conversation between Boylan and another parent as they watch their sons in a fencing tournament. There's lots of dialogue in the book as Boylan recreates conversations and also includes interviews about relationships between parents and children.

The opening is a way to engage the reader immediately which lets us know the types of exchanges Boylan gets involved in. When the other woman, given the pseudonym of Grenadine, spots Boylan's wedding ring, she assumes Boylan has a husband. Boylan doesn't say she used to be a man and has been a woman for ten years and is still married to the woman she married twenty-five years ago. and instead opts for: "I don't have a husband right now."

Boylan and Deirdre, known affectionately as Deedee, "love each other beyond all understanding." They are "two women, not lesbians, legally married to each other," Boylan points out to readers.

She likes to digress as she reflects on her life, and then returns to the original dialogue. It all works. And there's always humour. She writes: "Who knows? Maybe if more husbands became women, the divorce rate might be lower."

Boylan shares tender moments with her sons Zach and Sean and is always able to make ordinary events very special. She weaves reflections about her own father into the stories about her sons.

Conversations Boylan had with other fathers and sons are included in the "Time Out" section of the book. One of the interviews is with Richard Russo, whom Boylan has been friends with since they shared an office on Colby College in the early 1990s.

When her son Zach told a friend his daddy was "turning into a girl and his friend thought that the "saddest thing" she had ever heard, Zach said: "It's okay. She's still the same person."

What Boylan aims to do in her book is to show that being a transgender woman in the world, having a job, raising children, is a lot like everyone else. (She admits to some discrimination but has been fortunate to not experience much.)

She also shows how each family is unique and the sections of interviews show just how special families can be.

"Surely it is not the ways in which we all conform that define us, but the manner in which we each seek out own perilous truth," Boylan says. She believes "every single family in the world is a nontraditional family."

The afterword is a conversation with Jennnifer and Deirdre Finney Boylan by Anna Quindlen. In it Jennifer Boylan says there have been people that have been disappointed she's not more radical. She says "there are as many ways of being trans as there are of being gay, or lesbian, or straight, or Irish, or anything else." She includes resources at the end of the book and welcomes people to contact her directly.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the author of twelve books including the memoirs, I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted and She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, the first bestselling work by a transgender American. An updated, tenth anniversary edition of She's Not There was published in 2013. Since 1988 Boylan has been professor of English at Colby College. She lives in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, with her family. Visit her website.

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