Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders” as Want to Read:
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  6,042 ratings  ·  570 reviews
The provocative bestseller She’s Not There is the winning, utterly surprising story of a person changing genders. By turns hilarious and deeply moving, Jennifer Finney Boylan explores the territory that lies between men and women, examines changing friendships, and rejoices in the redeeming power of family. Told in Boylan’s fresh voice, She’s Not There is about a person be ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Broadway Books (first published July 1st 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about She's Not There, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about She's Not There

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodThe Second Sex by Simone de BeauvoirA Room of One's Own by Virginia WoolfThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Best Feminist Books
428th out of 1,184 books — 1,443 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
way back in 1994, when jennifer finney boylan was still james finney boylan, i found myself in freshman english with this amazing, fun, empathetic, creative professor. he was inspiring in his energy even for us, the lowest of the low - the students who were not aspiring english majors, the students who were taking EN115 because we had to. but man, what a great class jim lead. interestingly, the topic in our small (20 students) section was gender roles and archetypes of men and women. we read cos ...more
This is one of those books that I enjoyed so much that I can try to understand that some readers might not have liked it for legitimate reasons, but I don't really get it.

Jennifer's writing is brilliant, and she can capture the riotous absurdity of an event with amazing clarity and compassion. Apart from any aspects of her transsexuality, she's a great writing, and although I tend to avoid memoir, I would have read about her life and memories even if she'd had a conventional sexuality. The episo
There were a few things I loved about Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir "She's Not There" - mostly the insights into the differences between male and female.

But when I finished, I felt like SOMETHING definitely wasn't there.

I wanted more from the memoir.

I wanted to know why Boylan always identified with women, even though she was born male - the deep psychological reasons. Was her father not home enough? Not loving enough? Did she have an especially close relationship with her mother? Was there so
May 20, 2007 Juliet rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone. absolutely everyone.
This book blew me away. I couldn't put it down, and was alternating between laughter and tears the whole time. Boylan presents such a compelling and captivating exploration of what it means to be a woman through beautiful writing and a very open presenatation of her own life. It's been a long time since I read a memoir this good. The book made me think about myself, my thoughts about love, and my celebration of being female. I recommend it for everyone.

I don't think that Boylan's story tries to
Jul 07, 2008 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the variety of human conditions
Shelves: favorite
I finished the book - it was a quick read.
1 - It's very well written - the author is an English professor in an East Coast college...
2 - It takes courage for a transsexual to make the transition.
3 - It takes courage for the wife of a transsexual to watch her spouse make the transition.
4 - I am SO glad I never had to deal with this dilemma
5 - I wonder what it takes to live with the knowledge you are not what you seem. Courage, fortitude, integrity.
6 - I wonder how many others in this world live w
Dec 08, 2008 Wistaria rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one!
Recommended to Wistaria by: I bought it because it was cheap and looked interesting.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 22, 2007 Beth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to be educated on basic transgender issues
Poorly chosen title, terrible cover concept (why cut a woman in half?!)... but the book is well written and should educate a lot of people about trans issues. I myself was a bit surprised about the author's naivete when she was first transitioning--clearly, while living as a straight man, she had never met trans people or even gay or lesbian or bi people who were out. Quite a sheltered existence, considering she was a sophisticated college prof at Colby. So her story is probably more important, ...more
there was part of me (the part that studied american studies at a liberal arts school and used the word "intersectionality" in over a dozen papers) that was critical of and disappointed in this book. jenny never acknowledges the way her transition experience was shaped by her class and race privilege. her expensive surgeries and cushy job in colby college's english department hugely shaped her experience, yet jenny seems to have no awareness or interest in exploring these things.

that said, i cam
I was really excited to have this chance to read this book for my Intro. to Women' and Gender Studies class because my father recommended it to me. I really enjoyed the book, but not in the ways that I expected to. I also have to say that I think that memoirs are hard books to review, because they are about personal experiences and there's so many different things that one can take away from a memoir.

I went into this book thinking that I would learn more about what it means to be transsexual and
May 02, 2007 Kaitlin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Colby Grads!
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I took a couple classes with Jenny and one with James, so I'm prejudice. But, I loved it despite that. I think the struggle to come to terms with something you already know but don't want to face is beautifully portrayed here. She talks about how she needs to be selfish in this decision, but at the same time, it tears her apart that she is breaking the hearts of those around her. All in all, it is a hopeful story and I really enjoyed it.
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People trying to understand transsexuals
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 23, 2007 Shelly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students and feminists
Shelves: bookclub
I did not expect to like this book, I think it had to do with a fear that it would be a shallow treatment of a really complex bunch of issues and the goofy cover image (who IS that supposed to be? Every time I closed the book I questioned the mystery of how these things get decided).

Though regarding mystery, this book ultimately touches on what Russo sums up in his loving afterword - mysteries "which reside at our human center, constitute the deeper truths of our being" whcih "we often keep sec
I've followed Jenny Boylan's story since she first appeared on Oprah years ago to talk about her experience of being trans , and I've been friends with her on Facebook for some time now too. Yet for some reason, I wrongly assumed that this book was popular because of its subject matter and not because of its incredibly engaging writing. I also assumed that since it was published in 2003, it might be somewhat outdated in its perspective on trans identity. I was misguided on both counts. Boylan is ...more
Writer's Relief
With a fine balance of humorous wit and emotional depth, Jennifer shares the story of her transition from being a man (“James”) to being a woman in her memoir SHE’S NOT THERE. As someone who didn’t know much about the transition process, I was fascinated. After spending 43 years as a man, married, with two children, “James” decides to risk everything to become Jennifer, the person she felt she was always meant to be. It’s encouraging to see the support “James” receives when she finally reveals h ...more
This book has everything to do with how a transgendered individual goes throughout their life with such a difficult secret. Jennifer goes through her life as James because she feels like she has to, in order to keep her life and family together. As James, she felt like she could be "cured" of her need to be a woman by finding love. Eventually, she finds Grace, who is uniquely understanding, and raises a family. But even then, even with her successful life as a man, she needs to be a woman. The t ...more
Jennifer Anne
This is an autobiography of a trans woman (someone born with male physiology, but who has always known they where cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually female). She is a Professor of English at Colby College in Maine and transitioned (changed the gender she presented to the outside world) about ten years ago at about age 45 while at Colby. She was and still is married and has two sons that she fathered with her non-trans female partner.

This book was very literally life changing for me, but i
The story of Jennifer Finney Boylan's sex change is an engaging one, because Boylan is an engaging person, with a writer's ear for what makes a telling detail. Also, since she is a comic writer, her tone is very light, even though she speaks of sorrow, concealment and pain. Too many memoirs pour on the melodrama, which this one doesn't. We learn a lot about what leads to the decision to have sex reassignment surgery. For a man who has already had children and has a loving marriage, the decision ...more
Jessica Culhane
This was a quick read. I enjoyed Boylan's wit (the letter to NASA was a nice touch) and insights into gender differences. I had trouble with the sections where she describes her wife's reactions - they seems kind of callous. Not saying that Boylan shouldn't have taken any of the steps that she did, but it seems like she had trouble acknowledging how it was affecting others. It's possible this just didn't come across correctly through her writing style.
Sharon Rosenberg-Scholl
"Having an opinion about transsexuality is about as useful as having an opinion on blindness. You can think whatever you like about it, but in the end, your friend is still blind and surely deserves to see."

This was a captivating book, as evidenced by the fact that I had every intention of going to bed an hour ago, but found myself unable to do so until I reached the end. With poignancy and great humor, Boylan tells her story of growing up Transgendered and finding her way to allowing herself to
May 30, 2008 Jackie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is willing to have their mind and heart opened up
Shelves: pleasure-reading
What a wonderful and startlingly honest book this is! The world is not an easy place for the transgendered, especially during transition: jobs are lost, relationships strained or broken, even strangers can be cruel. All because someone wants to be physically what they are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Finney takes you through every painful step of the process--and shows you some of eventual joys. This book is about love and self respect above all else, being true to yourself no m ...more
This book was interesting. I have seen men dressed as woman and I never thought it to be such a struggling process to go through. I would have never thought that wanting to be something you are not since birth would cause problems for you throughout your entire life and make you over analyze yourself when you shouldn't have to. But then again, it does make sense. You are born to be something that you don't want to be. I can understand why someone would go through such a hard time wondering what ...more
I had trouble with the stream of consciousness style.........but I got used to it.

I must have missed something. I looked at the reviews on Amazon (to see if I'm the nut, usually) and most reviewers said something to the effect of how this book gave them some grand understanding of transgender.

I found the treatment relatively superficial in that regard. I do like her sense of humor so I'm going to get one of her novels to read.
Picked this 2003 book up off a library display and found it immensely engaging and eye-opening. A college English professor writes about his decision, in his 40's to transition to the female he has felt himself to be since childhood. Fascinating to read about how his wife and sons handled the change. Equally fascinating to realize that a person could go through something so traumatic and painful and emerge on 'the other side' with sense of humor intact. The author freely admits he had been a 'go ...more
The funniest thing that happened in this book is when Rick Russo refers to Eugene Schrang as "Big Pussy."
This is a memoir about one person's experience as a trans woman and has the advantage over some books in this area by being less polemical and reflecting a more "writerly" approach. It also reflects a more white, middle-class, liberal lifestyle and upbringing; Boylan's experience is not that of all trans people and I think the incident Russo describes in his afterword at the end makes this quite palpable. Still, it is worth reading merely for the fact it humanizes a subject that is foreign to th ...more
R. C.
I don't get the title, unless it's meant to make readers argue with it and say, "But she was always there!" which is something many transfolk long for people to say, I guess, about the person they have always felt they are. I'd suggest, instead, A Normal Transition: How the Privileged and Naive Cross Genders.

It was a great read, the ever-praised funny+poignant memoir. The tale was well-structured but also interesting at pretty much any random point you might browse into.

The author is as normal
Please take this review with a grain or two (of salt please), since it was one of those one-night skims (one night scans?) As skims go, I was pretty involved in it, though.
This is the first proper autobiography or memoir of a trans* person I've read, all the other related books on my shelf being chiefly theory, science, or politics. Frankly, though, this is what I want to curl up in bed (literally) and read. Philosophy, science, and political tracts belong to the 'angrily checking off the damnin

I'm glad I read Jennifer Finney Boylan's account of life as a transsexual undergoing a male-to-female transition. A novelist and English professor at Colby College, Boylan writes with humor and eloquence. It is also an inspiring real-life lesson of how accepting a transgendered person's family and friends can be. Jenny is certainly a blessed person.

However, I was disappointingly less engaged than I hoped. Boylan writes about the events in her life without great insight into how she felt at that

I am glad I read this book and I feel like I learned a little. I still cannot relate to feeling the spirit doesn't match the body, or feeling uncomfortable in my body.

I'm a little offended that James thought clothes make the woman. He felt less distracted when he dressed in a skirt? Really?

This is a very interesting book and I'm glad I'm reading it. I do still wonder about the disconnect between the spirit and body. I've never been so out of sync with myself that I had to take drastic measures.
I am speechless.

The thing I liked least about this book, honestly, was the title. Never having heard the song "She's Not There," I guess I might be missing something, but I honestly don't see how it ties in with the story. (Except for the scene at the end where Jenny turns around to talk to Grace and Grace isn't standing where she had been standing before... I didn't really understand the point of that scene either.) I guess theoretically it could be referring to Jim's refusal to admit that he w
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers
  • Becoming a Visible Man
  • A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today
  • She's Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband
  • Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman
  • True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism-For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals
  • Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine
  • Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity
  • The Last Time I Wore a Dress
  • From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
  • GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary
  • The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male
  • How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States
  • Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism
  • The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
  • Transgender History
  • The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution
Jennifer Finney Boylan is a widely praised author and professor.

Edward Albee summed up her oeuvre in 1988: -- "Boylan observes carefully, and with love. [Her] levitating wit is wisely tethered to a humane concern…. I often broke into laughter, and was now and again, struck with wonder."

Jenny's memoir, She's Not There, published by Broadway Books in 2003, was one of the first bestselling works by a
More about Jennifer Finney Boylan...

Share This Book

“As it turns out, we're all still learning to be men, or women, all still learning to be ourselves. pg 197” 5 likes
“Although my understanding of exactly how much trouble I was in grew more specific over time, as a child I surely understood enough about my condition to know it was something I'd better keep private. By intuition I was certain that the thing I knew to be true was something others would find both impossible and hilarious. My conviction, by the way, had nothing to do with a desire to be feminine, but it had everything to do with being female. Which is an odd believe for a person born male. It certainly had nothing to do with whether I was attracted to girls or boys. This last point was the one that, years later, would most frequently elude people, including the overeducated smarty-pants who constituted much of my inner circle. But being gay or lesbian is about sexual orientation. Being transgedered is about identity.” 4 likes
More quotes…