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Dress Codes

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  341 ratings  ·  33 reviews
If the only time you think you've seen a transsexual is on the Jerry Springer show, Noelle Howey's thoughtful, funny memoir of her suburban childhood with a cross-dressing dad may leave you wondering where all the fireworks are. The first half of Dress Codes is like anyone's story of parental neglect. "I had a dad possibly like yours," Howey explains, "sullen, sporadically...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 14th 2003 by Virago Press Ltd (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 831)
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Jayne
Divorce is complicated and painful even without a big family secret to conceal. Adolescence is anguishing in even its easiest incarnation. And there is simply no best time for a parent and spouse coming out as a cross-dresser.

Dress Codes gets us through all three of these potentially shattering crises with more humour than pathos, in this highly readable, fully autobiographical family saga. Covering ten years of the author’s life, with flashbacks to her parents’ youth and adolescence, the book...more
Sonja
A daughter's story of the way her family changed for the better once her father came out as transgender and embarked on the transition to being a woman. Very interesting, sensitive account.
Ashley
This book begins by throwing the reader into the middle of the author's unusual and shockingly frank after school activities. It was honestly a bit of a shock, to be thrown into the story in such an, um, personal way. Especially shocking since her parents played such a big role in this book and were instrumental in recounting so many of the details of her childhood and surely read each word. Call me a prude, but it really caught me off guard.

Because of this startling beginning, it took me a litt...more
Marsha
Ms. Howey’s book about her father’s gradual change from a man who loved women (albeit in a very lukewarm fashion) into a woman who loved men and then loved women doesn’t plot a smooth, straight and easy path, by any means. Shifting uneasily between her story and those of her parents and grandparents, her tale of transgender confusion, child rearing, social stigmatizing and unequally discomforting acceptance veers from one scene of depression, mood swings, awkward parenting and equally awkward ad...more
Will
An interesting story by an interesting woman, despite the fact that so much of the story is about her reaction to her parents and her grandparents. Noelle's father is the strong silent type of man, whose only passion is acting. Noelle's mother is a no-nonsense, practical woman who doesn't think she's interesting. Noelle's father is strong and silent because his big fear is that people will know he likes dressing up in women's clothing. Then he decides to come out. You'd figure that would make en...more
Jessica
Someone on a message board I frequent mentioned reading Dress Codes, and it caught my interest enough that I added it onto my Amazon order the last time I had a gift certificate. It's the memoir of a girl whose father is a transsexual who "came out" and decided to live as a woman while the author was a teenager.

Ms. Howey weaves together her own childhood stories with those of her parents and grandparents, and largely creates a portrait of a typical suburban American family life. While she talks...more
HeavyReader
Mar 18, 2014 HeavyReader rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: family members of transsexual people; anyone interested in transsexuality
Shelves: life-stories, queer
This is the story of a woman born in a man's body and how she goes about correcting the mistake. This is the story of the woman who loves that man/woman, even though they never have the passionate sex life she hopes for and expects. This is the story of their daughter, the story told by that daughter (and sometimes the daughter's writing style reminds me of David Sedaris). This is the story of three people who love each other even when they don't understand each other, even when they hurt each o...more
Tamara
Memoir of a suburban childhood with a cross-dressing dad. The first half of Dress Codes is like any other story of neglect. "I had a dad possibly like yours… sullen, sporadically hostile, frequently vacant." It was her loving mother who eventually confided her father's secret in the midst of the teenage angst that is 15. This news came as relief, explaining the remoteness, the drinking, the mood swings, reassuring that these were not the young Noelle's fault, but the result of her father's const...more
Monica
Mar 16, 2008 Monica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: KOTs, interested folks
This is the only published memoir I know of written by the daughter of a transgender MTF parent. I believe it's author is editing Real Simple magazine these days. The book portrays just what the title suggests. Howey lays out her own childhood growing up with a closeted transsexual father, supplemented with each of her parents' childhood memories. As she grows into a young woman, Howey's father undergoes a transition into womanhood herself.

To me, this is a palatable mainstream version of one KO...more
Kelly
Excellent - The author's father cross dresses in secret for years (only his wife knows what he is doing) and eventually becomes a woman. The story flips back and forth between the lives of the author, her mother, and her father beginning with their childhoods, which allows the reader to really get to know the characters. There was more information on all of their sex lives than any child should know about their parents (or any parent know about their child) but I'm guessing going through a sex c...more
Leigh Newman
it's astonishing how Howey is able to both portray her own feelings about her childhood and both of her parent's, so that all three "characters" are full realized people. it takes a compassionate, brave writer. i also like how she skillfully moved around in time, cutting from past to present and back again, in a way that was never confusing. what this allowed her to do was draw "thematic" parallels between her, her mother and her father. For example, lining up her lose of virginity with her moth...more
Becky
This is a strange book, to say the least. I liked the holistic nature of the story, which covered every family member's reactions to, struggles with, and finally, acceptance of, the author's father's sexuality. I had been expecting to read a book about growing up with a father who is a transsexual. Instead, the author describes the sex lives of her parents and grandparents, as well as her own. I can't imagine how she collected some of the information for this book. At the end, she vaguely discus...more
Traci  Medeiros
This book didn't blow me out of the water but it was worth the read once I finally made it all the way through. Some parts were extremely poignant in there insight but a lot of it fell short of it's, I think hoped for, dramatic effect. Still, it would be a good start for someone curious about the subject but not ready to dive into something that still is a little intimidating for them. The books structure has a lot to do with this as Howey compares and contrasts many states of womanhood from man...more
Hillary
Noelle Howey's father's dad is kind of a miserable jerk, and Noelle feels like it's all her fault. It's only when Noelle's mother tells her about her father's cross-dressing that Noelle realizes the internal struggle he has been facing his whole life. After her parents divorce, and her dad comes out as a transwoman, the family members are all able to rediscover themselves and start building a family that's stronger and more loving than ever before.
This fast-paced family memoir is alternately sad...more
Lauren
This book was just meh. I was glad to see there were some relatable moments, like when the author's father can't fathom that he could have impregnated his wife. That said, I found it awkward - and a bit frustrating - that the author's eventual evolution (which was significant, but I won't ruin it) was left for the last few pages.

The second half went far faster than the first half, though as a memoir it seemed a bit rote.

I do wish it wasn't out of print. I had to buy a used copy because my publi...more
ana
It was better than my stars rating might suggest. I just thought it was overly long. It was definitely written for people who've never known transsexuals or dealt with many queer issues in their lives, and so for anyone whose read all of the (seemingly) required queer tomes, parts might make you yawn.

Still it was a really good memoir of, as the title states, three girlhoods, and she captures painful, awkward, hilarious adolescence as it is.
Synesthesia
This was a great book, but several things-
Did the writer SQUIRM having to write about such things when it came to her parents. You know, their sex lives.
Also, I wonder why we haven't figured out that being transgendered shouldn't be so traumatic for all involved. I felt bad that Noelle's father had to go through so much just to be herself.
This is a good book about healing and coming to terms and finding your identity.
Ann
This book is very honest and enlighting. The author and her family are very brave to let their experience as a family with a transgender member into the public eye. Its also very readable, even though it does bounce around a bit. It feels like a novel, which helps keep a readers interest. I'm not sure there's another book out there like it, with such a wide spectrum.
Krista
I loved this book. It was a fabulous perspective, free of simple reminiscence, of her father who became her father named Christina. I liked the voice, the ability to remember the good and the bad, and that the story wasn't easily whitewashed. They all were who they were, imperfect and broken, but it's nice to see them as a family.
E
Dress Codes could have been interesting, but it jumped around too much in time: trying to tackle two parents' sets of childhoods, as well as the narrator, to make sense of the father's transformation of sexual identity and eventual sex change.
I felt awkward reading it, as if I were overhearing prurient family secrets.
Cindy
Cleveland Heights native writes of 3 girlhoods: her mother's, her father's (he is transexual) and her own. She spent far too long embellishing the story with her childhood and teenage sexuality. She confessed way more than we cared to hear!
Mai-ana
The description about it being about 3 girlhoods, mine, my moms and my dads was true but also missed the park as well. It's also about people who discover themselves, who they are really are, and one that many of us can learn from.
Catherine
Very interesting memoir of Howey's experiences coming to terms with her father's transsexuality. Her accounts of her father's sex change operation in Brussels and her bout with depression were particularly raw and compelling.
Nicole
Interesting for sure, but it didn't feel like much resolution was made concerning the father's appalling performance as a parent & husband pre-transition. Still worth the time though...
Anna
it was interesting, but i remember leaving it on the plane (purposely) when i was finished with it in the knowledge that i would never want to read it again.
Carolyn Ledy
interesting to read about a totally different slice of life. makes me realize what i went through as a child could have been a lot harder...
brass
a really great non-academic, non-gender-deconstructionist memoir. a great book for the 'i want to get it' beginners in your life.
Aubrie
This book was really interesting and gave some great insight into the challenges faced by transsexuals and their children.
Courtney
Very interesting. More proof that the truth is stranger than fiction. Somewhat disturbing...Very well written.
Melissa S.
A wonderful memoir. If you like reading about less than normal lives, this is the one for you!
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