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Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  221 ratings  ·  39 reviews
After years of teaching literature at Yeshiva University, Professor Jay Ladin made headlines around the world by returning to the Orthodox Jewish campus as a woman: Joy Ladin. In Through the Door of Life, Joy Ladin takes readers inside her transition as she changed genders and, in the process, created a new self.
    With unsparing honesty and surprising humor, Ladin wrestl
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published March 15th 2012 by University of Wisconsin Press
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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  221 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have never before read a book that took me so swiftly to the heart of what it is to be born into the wrong body. Much of Ladin's story is heartbreaking - her memories of childhood are wrenching for how soon the disconnect between her self and her body pushed her to deep, pervasive despair and self-harm, and her struggle to parent her own children in the present is its own difficult (but worthwhile) trial. Yet there is so much that is beautiful about this book and this story - the courage Ladin ...more
Nov 23, 2018 added it
this story, which is written very nicely, drips with pain. if you are of the persuasion that trans people change gender at whim, just cuz, maybe you should read this.

it's too bad that joy ladin doesn't bring into the narrative a keener awareness of trans studies, in particular the part of trans studies that deals with identity, performance and the politics of pleasure/desire. these are all difficult themes and she deals with them untheoretically (the difficulties are massively present in the bo
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt-themed, memoir
This is the first memoir written by a transgendered person that helped me truly understand why this could be a necessary step in someone's life. I read Chaz Bono's book and two by Jennifer Boylan, but neither of those authors brought me to awareness of the compelling need to shift gender and the trauma of gender dysphoria. Joy Ladin expressed the deep pain of an existence lived in the wrong gender and the horrible psychological impact of existing in the wrong body. Those reviewers who state that ...more
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully rendered almost poetic story of gender transition, and what personal authenticity involves.
Suzanne Ondrus
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ladin lets you know much of her struggle with realizing her true gender. I liked her insights into Judaism with transgender issues. She shows how becoming her true gender cost her her spouse, intimacy with her children, and friends. It was fascinating and helped me to appreciate & begin to understand transpeople.I'm bringing in excerpts to my Queer Studies class.
Favorite pages-bookmarked: 70-73,"When I was a kid, I couldn't risk becoming someone my family would despise"(72). She felt like sh
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Fascinating memoir that definitely got me thinking about gender more deeply. There were many aspects I couldn't relate to as a non-trans woman, but these tended to be what got me thinking the most. Much of the writing was beautiful, with some delicious turns of phrase. However, all the lengthy descriptions of painful emotions made parts of the book a chore to wade through. I wanted more story for context and less focus on descriptions of the emotions themselves.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: trans, non-fiction
A well-written, heart-breaking and enlightening book. Also wonderful to read some of the specifically Jewish thoughts and ideas about transition.
Alice Lemon
I'm not sure how to describe this book...depressing but necessary? It was certainly painful to read about Professor Ladin's rejection by her family when she transitioned, and about the assertions of her ex-wife and the courts and even herself that obviously her transition was bad for her children, and something that had to be hidden from them. But it was also important for me to be reminded that I do live in a strange, little non-transphobic bubble, and that the rest of the world is much less ac ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written book and Joy Ladin is open and honest and poured her heart out. I could feel her anguish. One of the things that I did not understand was her relationship or lack of relationship with her father. And one thing that stood out for me was the fact that she did not name her wife or children. However, she did name all others in her book. Am surprised that other reviewers have not mentioned this. It sort of stood out for me. All in all - was glad to read Joy Ladin's book ...more
Danni Green
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genderawesome
Joy Ladin's exploration of self, religion, family, and community resonated deeply for me. As a transgender Jew myself, I felt like the way she processes her experiences comes from a place inside that I can deeply relate to, but would have a hard time explaining to someone who isn't Jewish, and I love how she used this memoir as a way to reflect what it's like to be wired that way.
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So heartbreakingly honest. Joy covers it all and, unlike many other memoirs I've read, it has that visceral feeling of realness.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A heartfelt look into a personal transition. There is more to learn every day.
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was a revelation in so many ways. Joy Ladin opens up her world to the readers in such powerfully insightful ways, and draws them in to the agony of growing up in the wrong body, the loneliness of her struggles, and the sorrows of losing family and friends, all the while remaining open to the love and friendship of those who would help and assist her on her journey to becoming who she was always meant to be. I have a friend who's child is at the beginning of the process of "becoming", a ...more
Margaret Klein
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This was a powerful, positive and important book about people who are transgendered (I think she prefers? transexual). We watch her growth in her certainty that she is a woman--while balancing the tension between her family and her identity. She writes prose in a poetic style--aided by the fact that she is a literature and writing professor at Stern College, the women's division of Yeshiva University. She details the pain of losing much (her relationship with her former wife, the day-to-day life ...more
Lisa Feld
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: boston
What does it mean to talk about a Jewish journey between genders? While there is some discussion of God and Jewish practice towards the end, I think the main Jewish element here is that no one can practice Judaism alone; it must happen in community. Ladin spends as much (if not more) time on the impact her choices have made on her students, her parents, her children, and her ex-wife as on her own feelings. And she does so with compassion, honesty, and a poet's gift for language.

Ladin does also d
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it
I could not wait for this to be published, so I'm sad to be giving it a mediocre review, but I was disappointed. In many places the book is an outpouring of emotion without enough story around it to give the emotion substance. I especially had trouble with the fact that Joy's wife seemed like such a monster (I understand it's hard to have a spouse transition, but how could she think it was okay to tell the kids their father had abandoned them by transitioning?), and despite all the references to ...more
Janaki Kuruppu
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Totally blown away by this book!

In my professional live, working with HIV-infected individuals, it is not uncommon for me to encounter transgender individuals, but this book is written from the perspective of someone well-educated, literate, and religious, and, as such provides a unique perspective into the reality of someone who is born with a male body, but who feels their identity to be female.

There are so many ways in which this book resonates with truth, and, I must say that the negative re
Dina Tanners
Dec 09, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a powerful book. I learned a lot from it but it was tough to read. I began to understand what it is to be born with one physical gender but to have a mind of the opposite gender. From a very young age, Jay/Joy knew something was very wrong. At age 6, he read an article in a woman's magazine in his mom's bedroom which described a young boy who was dressing as a girl, and felt a strong kinship.

I had problems getting into it, in part because of the style of writing and also because of my pr
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This memoir chronicles the challenges of being not the right external and internal body. The difficulties that young and dating and early married Jay faces are sad, the sense of dislocation from the physical body is heartrending. The religion/God pieces are scattered throughout, as religion likely is for most people. The push-pull of derech eretz (respect for others, as everyone is created in God's image) and basic Biblical language (about wearing clothing of the other gender, for example) mirro ...more
B Newmark
Dec 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book’s title suggests a question about transformation, change and a journey. But a funny thing happens on the chemically triggered, expensive, au courant, lush leafy road to womanhood—well funny if you find humor in whining and taking a hatchet to your wife. If someone held a gun to my head and said: you better explain this book, all I could say was that the two defining characteristics of this book are misogyny, of a very masculine nature, and self indulgence of the sad sack nature—now, pl ...more
Joy Ladin (formerly Jay Ladin) is a poet and a professor of English at Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women. The book is written with the clarity and poetry of language one would expect, considering her background. In addition, though, it includes the wry humor and deep pain of her midlife transition from male to female. Especially poignant is her ongoing fortitude in rebuilding a relationship with her three beloved children.

This is an important read for any compassionate person, but it
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly the best written and most honest memoir I've ever read. Written by poet/professor Joy Ladin, someone I've long admired for her writing as well as for her general strength and grace in life, and (surprise) featuring in a small part my friend Raven Kaldera (he isn't mentioned by name but if you know him, you'll know exactly when he shows up!) Highly recommended for anyone Jewish, or anyone on the LGBT spectrum or an ally, or anyone looking for a bit of poetic bittersweet truth about ...more
The memoir of the first openly transgendered employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution details the pain in the decision to transgender and the breakup of her family. The process of acceptance of self through the physical (voice, clothes, make-up, gait, and sex), the discrimination suffered by transgendered individuals, and the loneliness that one endures "to live" are revealed. Throughout the process, the author relies on selected passages from her Jewish faith that give her strength in her dec ...more
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Joy's book is an honest, vulnerable look at just how painful and rewarding coming out as trans and deciding to transition can be. Especially for an individual in middle age. "Through The Door of Life" is an incredibly brave narrative. The vulnerability and honesty she shows by admitting that she ruined her family's lives is powerful. Joy's story is sad, but it is also hopeful and is well worth the read. I read the book very quickly. Joy is an excellent writer who masterfully uses the English lan ...more
Jul 03, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a very well-written account of one woman's journey to her present gender. I think it makes for a great addition into the canon of trans narratives. I did wish that she would have had delved even more into the Jewish elements and themes throughout her entire journey -- especially since this is part of the title of the book. This book is Joy Ladin's detailed and personal narrative of her unique journey which occasionally brings in some basic Jewish themes.
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written,this book will stay with me. I found myself having to put the book down every few pages because Ladin's experience is so powerfully shared that I needed to process what it must be like to go through her experience. Her faith in G-d and her profound love for her children is inspirational. So is this book. Read it.

Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was painful yet hopeful, so heartfelt and intimate. I felt honored to be allowed into the author's very emotional and spiritual struggles. I love memoirs, that experience of being let in to someone else's very personal story, of "hearing" the inner workings of the soul and mind of another person. This is a beautiful memoir, beautifully written that I would recommend to all.
Sarah Key
Mar 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Wonderfully written. I was enamored with the book from its opening pages, and I loved Ladin's writing style and construction of her memoir. However, there were some chapters that I had a difficult time following. (Again, a reader's fault, not necessarily the fault of the author.) These particular chapters seemed to become rather religiously instructive and lost a sense of balance for me.
Miriasha Borsykowsky
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it but it took a while for me to get through, what with school and being tired. It was a very effective and beautifully written look into gender dysphoria, and Joy's descriptions of her belief in God actually helped me see into that world as well.
Sharon Brady
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing story of one man's struggle to become his "true" self. Terribly moving to read how he struggled so long, but to finally achieve it. Not without, of course, tremendous pain for him and his family.
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