Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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

In her third iteration of memoir, Boylan offers up her unusual perspective on the wonders and heartbreak of parenthood: after her two children were born, James transitioned into Jenny. Daddy was reimagined as Maddy.

Boylan's been over some of this ground in previous books, but here for the first time she's not using pseudonyms for people and places in her life; her sons requested that this time she use their real names, and she follows suit with many others that she'd altered previously.

The title is a bit misleading: while the bulk of the text is Boylan's experiences, there are also interviews interspersed between chapters (many famous friends, some regular citizens) that offer additional perspectives on parenthood. Some interviewees talk about their children, others are childless and talk about their parents. Some discuss both parenthood and being parented. They touch on absentee parents, death, disability, aging, adoption, and much more.

It's really that variety of experiences that makes this book all the richer. What are the commonalities of being a parent? For all the worry many have about ruining their children, others who had terrible childhoods discuss their survival and success.

I've long been a fan of Boylan, and this book is one I'll recommend heartily. It's both heartbreaking and hilarious, and it offers opinions and food for thought without seeming preachy or purporting to have all the answers.

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