In terms of helping a general audience understand transsexualism, what transition involves, why people need it, and the particular issues trans peopleIn terms of helping a general audience understand transsexualism, what transition involves, why people need it, and the particular issues trans people as a community face, this is a pretty good book. Kailey also seems to be aiming to educate trans people curious about transition and understanding the difficulties they will face throughout the process and after, and I think he achieves these aims as well. His style is straightforward, with a conversational, occasionally light tone that makes for a quick, easy read. Those expecting a deeper memoir on Kailey's childhood, life pre-transition, and what compelled him to transition will likely be disappointed. Personally, as I didn't see this as the book's aim, didn't bug me as much.
I do feel with other readers who were put off by Kailey's dismissal of "male privilege" a couple times near the beginning. It put me off too, but as I read further into the book, it's pretty clear he thinks women are more deeply harmed by sexism, via scrutiny over their bodies and the fear they feel because of men's actions. It's possible that he sees (or saw, since he recently passed away) his out trans status as effectively canceling out aspects of any male privilege he might be afford. Or he really just doesn't see it. But I would not say there is any antagonism toward feminism in general.
He also covers the real difficulties trans people face, how they are adversely affected by marriage laws, how they are often stigmatized and targets for violence. He deals with his own difficulties finding romance after his transition and fitting into the gay world as a trans man. There is an attitude of acceptance throughout, but great honesty in conveying the real struggles he and others far worse off must go through.
Really, my only major criticism is the book is structured more as a collection of short essays and is thus rather spotty, even though it is organized in related sections. This is pretty minor, though, compared to the overall value of the content....more
I'm giving this 3 stars, because in context of a certain audience (partners of trans people in transition) it has some value. It has some insight tooI'm giving this 3 stars, because in context of a certain audience (partners of trans people in transition) it has some value. It has some insight too in terms of larger discussions on gender in feminism or queer theory. Boyd's viewpoint is unique, she's thoughtful, she's knowledgeable enough to be able offer differing perspectives, and she has a clear voice as a writer.
Even so, I hesitated on those 3 stars, as I often found this book quite rambling and repetitive, with a tendency for its thoughtful to coil in on itself and get nowhere. From what I can tell, this reflects the state of Betty and Helen's relationship at the time, with Betty exploring a sort of space in between and Helen sorting out her feelings on the possibility of a full transition. Since this book was published, Betty has transitioned and, while Helen in interviews voices some reservations, one feels that she has eased into the reality. In a way, this book could be treated as a record of a certain period in their shared lives, a way for readers to understand how such spaces can be navigated.
I also think that for partners who, for whatever reason, aren't going through the same kinds of crises, this book can feel a bit frustrating. Boyd has the advantage of not being a "typical" woman and the experience of being "into" her husband's cross-dressing queers her heterosexuality a bit, but this just makes the crisis of identity, gender, and sexuality more confusing. Some trans partners are going to find their relationship after transition, others are themselves going to have sexualities and gender identities that make them more open to transitioning. I agree with Boyd's point that the partner of a person transitioning transitions too. The kind of crisis Boyd writes through here is something those sorts of partners can understand but will experience very differently.
The other thing is, I can agree with GR user Imogen that Betty and Helen's relationship seems co-dependent. They seem to have created a world together and are both too scared to upset that world. I won't judge their decision to take it slow and consider every finer point of the process, particular if they seem content living in that reality, but it goes back to the frustration one feels while reading.
Where the book is strongest for me is when Boyd gets at the meat of gender and how we live it in the world, how the deep awareness transgender people have of that reality reveals an impact we (as in cis/heteronormative culture) can't always see. It's a shame one has to slog through so much rambling navel-gaze to get to these insights, but it is what it is....more
My rating on this is actually hovering between a 2 and a 3. The difficulty here is that Vincent has some skill as a wrAnother late review. Well, OK...
My rating on this is actually hovering between a 2 and a 3. The difficulty here is that Vincent has some skill as a writer and actually does give some insight on the differences between genders in our culture, but there is also something offputting abut her attitude and highly questionable about certain conclusions.
Part of my issue is that going in, she seems to over-estimate the awesomeness of being a guy. Certainly there are some freedoms and expectations of power or competency that make it seem like an ideal position, but even as a patriarchy-believing feminist, it seems clear to be that these expectations and freedoms come with a price. Or at least they have for many men I know. There are also issues making these assumptions when you're dealing with working vs. middle class guys. It is also a bit disappointing that she doesn't expand her scope to, say, nerd or geek culture, areas of which can seem dominated by men but favor a very different sort of guy than working class bowlers or salesmen in a high pressure environment. While it does seem like her goal was to focus in on stereotypically "GUY" sub-cultures and endeavors, not looking at other types of guys limits understanding of masculinity as a whole.
There is also her tendency to criticize women for being artificial, petty, and so forth--the usual laundry list of complaints uttered by frustrated men and women who have said things like "I just don't trust other women." I've been there myself, and I admittedly have a tough time conjuring sympathy for the mean girls of the world, but I learned that being a bitch and judging all women in retaliation is just self-defeating. Really, it's odd given her supposed renewed respect for her femininity.
Generally, Vincent has a tendency to come off as self-involved and often unwilling to examine her blindspots. The book does, however, claim to be a memoir, the navel-gaziest of genres, so some leniency is called for. On the other hand, this is a memoir that attempts to tackle a social reality, therefore any solipsism on the author's part will be held to some scrutiny.
To her credit, Vincent clarifies that total objectivity and gathering of data is not her goal. This qualifies some of what she says here and puts the focus on her increasing awareness of what it means to be a man in our culture. Where the book shines are the social interactions between her and the people she meets, her efforts to understand their experience, and the effort to understand herself in terms of gender. When she is not trying to be clever or asserting her ego, the book is actually quite interesting as an examination of masculinity.
Because of that, I'd consider it an interesting read, at the very least, though there are probably far more substantial books on the subject....more
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 reflectThis 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 the experience of many non-trans people and because it comes from a 1st person perspective avoids the usual pitfalls when trans issues are discussed in the mainstream media.
Why 3 stars, then? Well, I would say closer to 3.5, really, but GR still doesn't do halfsies. Boylan is a rather deft writer in terms of crafting a sentence and building her scenes. Her sensibility is light and comic, which contrasts the often tough reality she faces as a trans person. It definitely helps convey an overall portrait of her personality, one that is often happy-go-lucky, belying the stereotype of the tortured trans etc. When it works, you find yourself really liking her as a person, which lends more pathos to the story. When it doesn't, she lends herself to an almost flippant quality that irks me in so much post-modern-ish comic writing. This might also frustrate readers going in with the expectation of the soul-bearing memoir style. Other than that, the structure was often irritatingly episodic, with episodes reading more like vignettes that didn't build toward a unified point. So...while I enjoyed reading this book quite a lot, I never quite fell in love.
However, like I said, I see this book as useful and necessary just as it is, and reading reviews I found it an interesting litmus test for people's attitudes toward a memoir by a trans person. Specifically, a lot of people want a rundown of reasons WHY the person is trans, as if that's her job. Never mind that Boylan seems most invested in relaying her experience as a trans woman--or the fact that she invests quite a bit of effort in relaying the physical/mental process of her transition. There are also the readers who find her too selfish, a complaint not too uncommonly lodged against trans people who transition after marriage, family, etc. This seems an odd complaint given that her wife refuses to leave Boylan, despite the fact they no longer have a sexual relationship. Transition is inherently a selfish process, but the narrative positively drips with gratitude for all who stand beside Boylan through it. I did find one reviewer who did the usual questioning of Boylan's status as a woman, too. So yeah, the reactions are almost more interesting than the book itself.
That said, one thing most reviewers (even positive) seem to bypass is Boylan's interest in Campbell and the Hero's Quest, which she makes some note of as far as her teaching career is concerned. Thinking further about the structure of the narrative, she seems to be treating her experience in this sort of mythical context. In her childhood she comes to believe that her desire to be a woman can be quelled by the love of a woman, that she will be able to move on and live normally. Eventually, she does fall in love with Grace, marries, and is able to settle into normalcy for a few years before undergoing a crisis that much push her quest back to the fore. In order to succeed in her quest, to become whole, she must sacrifice something of great value. What she sacrifices is intrinsically tied to what she thought she was seeking and in the process she discovers some hidden gift that is even greater. Admittedly, this is based on a very rough understanding of what the quest structure entails, but the desire for wholeness and element of sacrifice seem quite strong.
I think this underlying narrative reveals some of Boylan's outlook and strength as a writer. Underneath the cleverness is a romantic sort of soul, full of longing for some greater ideal that is not uncommon among those whose experience is somehow outside the norm. What makes her vantage unique is the optimism and absence of tragedy to the proceedings....more
Way behind on reading and reviews, so unfortunately this won't be too in-depth. What I can say:
I read this while also reading She's Not There, a bookWay behind on reading and reviews, so unfortunately this won't be too in-depth. What I can say:
I read this while also reading She's Not There, a book with a much more personal take on being transsexual. One might say that book, in its presentation as a transsexual person apart from the cliched narratives and drive of the author to be more authentic, is implicitly political. But Serrano's book puts its polemics front and center, using the personal as a part of its theory, as a political tool.
I liked this book most in the first half and would recommend it primarily for Serrano's manifesto on trans feminism. I haven't yet come across a writer on these issues who is so concise and clear in helping understand these issues. Her background as a biologist no doubt helps in her effort to try and clarify the relationship between gender and sex. This aspect will no doubt be illuminating for many, even those who can't quite stomach the politics. She is also quite deft in critiquing the troubling views of some in the feminist community, as well as the flaws in queer theory.
The second half of the book is a hodge-podge of personal essays, culled from her blog and edited to fit the book. Whereas Serrano is careful in the first half not to universalize from her experience and always careful to qualify her statements or refer to solid evidence, the second half is rife with this sort of thing. Makes sense given the personal nature of the subject matter, and it helps in terms of understanding her own experience as a trans woman in the real world, but it lacks the objectivity and theoretical meat of the first half. She remains, however, a very engaging writer who's clear, precise, and passionate.
Though I am sticking with 4 stars, as I think her writing is overall very solid and quite illuminating, I did have a few criticisms while reading. In explaining the term cis-gender/sexual, she implies that to be cisgender means to never question one's gender identity. I am most definitely not on the side of the TERFs, but when I always find these statements presumptive and simplistic. There are lots of cis folks who don't feel like "real" men/women, because they don't do X/Y/Z, therefore it might be more useful to refer to aspects of gender as a social phenomenon related to sex as a sort of spectrum. While many people are comfortable settling into whatever tools society gives them, others (myself included) balk against that system and even feel discomfort with their bodies without experiencing dysphoria per se. Likewise, Serrano tends to characterize queer theory and gender constructionism a bit too broadly, implying these groups don't believe that sex or gender have a biological component, which isn't quite accurate.
Criticisms aside, I do like the gist of what Serrano's saying here, how clearly she defines her terms, and helps us understand what it mans to be transgender/transsexual. Additionally how this understanding can be integrated into feminist theory, furthering intersectionality w/in the movement....more
This is an elegantly written, tightly constrained, and subtle novel, and all this works because it is perfectly suited to the content. Most of the draThis is an elegantly written, tightly constrained, and subtle novel, and all this works because it is perfectly suited to the content. Most of the drama hinges not on what is said but what we can read between the lines, a perfect mirror for a world driven by etiquette and the appearance moral propriety, masking crueler, more jungle-like motives.
That theme is clear enough to anyone who saw the Scorsese adaptation, and it seems this (apart from the history of NYC) is what made the story so appealing--even though it is an uncharacteristically gentile film for the man. I got to the book (finally) by way of the film, and I must say I was please with how even more deft the storytelling was, how much more complex and nuanced the breadth of a novel allowed Wharton to be. Main themes aside, this is just a well written book with complex characters, psychological insight, and attention to detail and texture. Wharton has a way with figurative language and though she can occasionally dither in the way writers of this style are prone to, her writing is for the most part rich and tight, the sort of thing I derive great pleasure from.
But the thing that became very clear as I read this book, which I did not quite expect from the film, is that Wharton sees to be working in a slant way at communicating feminist themes. Not only is she critiquing the cold moralism and false gentility of the upper classes, she is also critiquing their sexual hypocrisy. This is a world where it is more distasteful for a family to have to endure the divorce of a female relative (who by modern standards has good grounds for it) than to have her remain married but separated. It is a world where a previous affair Archer has with a married women is excused as a mistake, while the merest suggestion of an affair for a woman means social ostracism. It is also a world where the smartest choice for a young lady is to find a good husband to support her and do whatever she can to ensure his loyalty, even trading her security for his happiness as an individual. Wharton's patriarchy is not only upheld by rich white men in smoky dens, it is supported by their wives and female relatives, convinced that this is the best choice. Certainly better than what "bad girls" like Elena must endure.
Brilliantly, Wharton tells the story through the eyes of a man, not a woman. Newland Archer is not in most respects an "interesting" character. He represents the usual difficulty of writing a character who is, at heart, a good person but ultimately lacks the courage and agency to risk his position and grow as a person. What makes him interesting is that he's aware of the hypocrisy and his own complacency (even complicity, hoho) to it. Clearly he is a man torn between a desire to break out of the system he's born into but unable to really free himself from it. He desires Elena, like he desired the unnamed married woman, because they are independent beings who have, in some small way, broken out of the system. Elena, it is clear, has too much raw honesty to fit in it, is more concerned with art than business. Their relationship is a partnership of equals. May, on the other hand, is the Dianic virgin, who Newland can impart knowledge upon. In the end, he (and we, the reader) realize there is more to May than meets the eye, that beneath the veil of purity lies a steely dame. This is what must be done to maintain the status quo. Ironically, it is May who imparts her knowledge (through deft manipulation) on Newland. Touché.
The complexity of these characters, the many angles one can read the story, make for some compelling reading. Piled into all of this also is a historic portrait of New York City, one very different from our own and even when Wharton wrote the book. I was reminded almost of our current relationship to the TV show Mad Men, with its look back not only at outdated gender roles but also the city as a child who lived in it must remember. The "Age" Wharton refers to has multiple meanings, not only signifying the end of Newland's innocence, but also Wharton's ironic appeal to some "more innocent" time. She seems to acknowledge that this is what it took to build the city, a society, and there is a faint longing for the intensity imparted to emotions in such strict circumstances, but she is not really nostalgic. Newland in the end cannot even look at Elena in Paris. The windows are closed, he remains seated. But the world continues moving around him, whether he does or does not....more
A friend gave me a copy of this when he heard I got a job as an in-house web designer and would be focusing on redesigning websites to be more responsA friend gave me a copy of this when he heard I got a job as an in-house web designer and would be focusing on redesigning websites to be more responsive. I only just barely understood what responsive design was when I started reading this book, but by the end of it I had a clear sense of the principles and how they could be implemented.
If you're a web designer and know a little about responsive design, then you're at least aware of Marcotte's 2010 article on the subject, on which this book is based (it's here, if you haven't read it). The 3 pillars of responsive design--flexible grids, flexible images, and media queries--are outlined in that article and the book reiterates some of this information. While this might make it seem redundant, Marcotte goes into greater detail on difficulties implementing responsiveness across browsers and solutions to implementation. He also expands further on the idea of a mobile-first approach and how to integrating the idea of responsive design into the overall workflow. This is all good stuff, and Marcotte's conversational, easy-going style makes it highly readable.
My criticisms are overall quite small. While Marcotte does walk the reader through a demo site to test responsiveness, he does tend to skip steps as the demos progress. I'm not new to web design or anything like that, but some of the techniques described are new to me and I like a very step-by-step approach when it comes to demos. Mind you, this is a problem I have with lots of web design demos, and having designed web design demos in the past for students, I understand how this happens. The assumed audience here is definitely not a beginner, rather someone well versed in HTML/CSS. It's also more conceptually oriented in some respects than some books on the subject of web design, in part because responsive design is a general term for a set of practices and general approach to web design, not a particular language or program.
To Marcotte's credit, he doesn't get too trapped in the conceptual and really brings the approach into a practical context. Just being able to fall back on those 3 pillars or refer to certain sections for reference has been immensely helpful for myself in understanding how to think and work with these ideas in mind. This is an excellent starting point for anyone learning what responsive web design is and how to implement it. It is, after all, written by the man who coined the term....more
I wish I had read this book several years ago, when my interest in Buddhism was reignited and I began to study it seriously. While I have read a few gI wish I had read this book several years ago, when my interest in Buddhism was reignited and I began to study it seriously. While I have read a few good books and resources that outlined Buddhist practice and belief, none have encompassed quite so much in such a tight and direct manner. I think also that this book could have corrected some confusion and misunderstandings that took a while for me to get through. It is probably the best book for beginners I have encountered, though the approach is probably more detailed and scholarly than some would prefer. Since I often take a scholarly approach to my spirituality, it does hold strong appeal for me personally.
The main selling point of this particular book is that Rahula works from the closest to firsthand sources we have in Buddhism. Also, while this book is more than 50 years old, the English translations are relatively new, still contemporary to the ones widely used today. Buddhism (and Eastern religion in general) have always suffered misunderstandings and confusion in a Western context, in large part due to the translations available prior to the 20th century. Rahula works to clarify the language and correct some misconceptions, something that is unbelievably helpful for those of us still trying to figure this stuff out. All that makes this an excellent resource for beginners, those still exploring Buddhism (like me), and also those studying comparative religions looking to learn more than just basics.
A lot of the information in this book was not new for me and just helped to reiterate/confirm some gained knowledge. By culling bits from the Dhammapada and Suttas, Rahula also helps guide you through some overwhelming (and highly repetitive) walls of text, directing you to the important bits that helps expand on the basics. Thinking back to this aspect actually makes me want to purchase a copy of this book, just to have that guide available when I need it. So excellent in that respect as well.
As much as I love this book, I'm not quite up to 5 stars. Mainly because its focus is more scholarly, all about principles and less about practice. Rahula's also not much of a poetic writer and, yes, has a tendency towards pedantry in the way that a very erudite person can be. Still, the book does what it says on the cover and I haven't yet found another book that so strongly and concisely gets to the point in covering the basics without all the confusion....more
This book is probably best approached as a document/artifact from the end of an era in feminism sometimes referred to as the Sex Wars. These began inThis book is probably best approached as a document/artifact from the end of an era in feminism sometimes referred to as the Sex Wars. These began in the 1970s with disagreements over issues like pornography, prostitution, and political lesbianism (or even celibacy). Depending on who you talk to, it was a war between the anti-sex/sex-negative feminism and pro-sex/sex-positive feminism, or between radical/cultural feminism and liberal feminism (The latter is a somewhat tougher definition to argue for, as some of the sex-positive crowd would class as some kind of radical leftist. But no matter). These issues came to a head in the mid-80s, when McKinnon and Dworkin pushed for anti-pornography legislation, which other feminists fought against.
Many feminists on the side of McKinnon/Dworkin refused to regard these "sexual liberals" as true feminists. Those in the liberal camp tended not to go this far, accepting the radicals as feminists while keeping a distance. After this period, the movement began to reassess some of its approach, became more diverse and more self-critical, leading to the 3rd wave.
This book was published in 1990 and the majority of the works included were drawn from panel lectures at a conference of the same name, held in 1987 at the New York University Law School. It features many of the key players in radical cultural feminism, like Dworkin, McKinnon, Daly, and so forth. Many of the names I was less familiar with, but after researching do not seem minor.
For anyone trying to get a picture of the period and its aftermath, this is a pretty good document of everything from the perspective of the cultural, radical, "sex-negative" crowd. How you rate it might well depend on how you generally react to this kind of rhetoric, or how far you're willing to go with some of the arguments.
While I am not a fan of Dworkin and her ilk, one criticism that radical feminism still have a valid point on is the issue of "choice" or any kind of feminism that emphasizes this as the ultimate goal. They rightly acknowledge that even choices that seem freely made are influenced by our culture (hence "cultural feminism") or are otherwise constrained in such a way that it is preferable to uphold restrictive gender roles. Culture doesn't change when people continue to make the same choices. We can't just wave these concerns away by declaring, "Well, now women have a choice whether to be housewives or CEOs, problem solved!" Especially not if they continue falling into the same patterns.
Another legitimate argument throughout these pieces is the tendency of sexual liberals to hand-wave at certain problems. For instance, I support legalized (or at least decriminalized) prostitution, but I'd never argue that the majority of prostitutes freely chose their careers. Statistically, there's just not much support for it. Yet some people who share my position just blithely shrug it off. Sometimes we do need to look beyond the issue of rights and consider whether someone's being harmed.
Ultimately, however, I side with the "sexual liberals" and believe the tactics chosen by Dworkin et. al. are misguided and even at times Puritanical. Their all or nothing ideological approach means that they don't always look critically at their statistics or methodological approach. They see all sex as utterly tainted--total depravity the feminist edition. They're incapable of seeing fantasy and play as a potential for working-through our programming, of even acknowledging fantasy is just that. The complaints go on and on and on.
So yes, an interesting document of an era and worth reading if you want to know something about the commonly cited figures within radical/cultural feminism. It gives a more realistic picture than cherry-picked quotes ever will....more
Unfortunately, I just lost 3 paragraphs of a well thought-out review, so I'm going to keep this short.
My main qualm with the book was that Mu3.5 stars
Unfortunately, I just lost 3 paragraphs of a well thought-out review, so I'm going to keep this short.
My main qualm with the book was that Musil was unable to balance the poetic/philosophical meanderings against the main action, that it is often too overloaded with the former. But this is a first novel, where such mistakes are to be expected, and Musil himelf voiced some ambivalence many years later about the quality.
Nonetheless, I liked it. Many readers will find the meanderings dull, but I thought they were quite interesting. Musil has a precision in his language and also psychological insight into the confused adolescent mind of Torless.
The idea that this novel prophecies WWI and the rise of facism seems misguided. At its most basic, this is a story about power dynamics in a private boys military school, similar to the one Musil attended as a boy. Like most adolescents, the boys are building their identities and testing out their roles, thus probably mirroring the bourgeois society in Austria at the time. Which is to say, highly moralistic and often torn between an Enlightenment view of the world and something more mystical or sentimental.
You have Bieneberg, a manipulative bully with an unsophisticated "strong ruling he weak" kind of morality. And then you have Rieting, who spouts half-baked quasi-mystical "wisdom," no doubt parroted from his father, who likes to study texts from India in his spare time (Mueller, one presumes). Basini plays the helpless victim, but this too is a manipulation, a means of survival. The poor boy, effeminate and probably gay, believes that if he simply caves into demands he will somehow survive his schooling.
Torless is somewhere outside of this, both in thought and action, and this is where his confusions stem. When the torture of Basini begins, he is only an observer, refusing to act. Eventually, he discovers a kind of beauty in Basini and acts in an unexpected way, but then he pushes the boy away. What is made clear is that Torless discovers something dark and unknowable within himself through these events, something it is implied that his society (the teachers) are helpless to understand or describe. Neither reason, nor mysticism, nor moralism are adequate, and ultimately he must move on to another environment. The only certainty is that the experiences have changed him....more