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Trans: A Memoir

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  844 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Moving memoir and insightful examination of transgender politics

“Six weeks before sex reassignment surgery (SRS), I am obliged to stop taking my hormones. I suddenly feel very differently about my forthcoming operation.”

In July 2012, aged thirty, Juliet Jacques underwent sex reassignment surgery—a process she chronicled with unflinching honesty in a serialised national
ebook, 320 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by Verso
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  844 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
Excellent memoir of transition and also of the political and economic climate of the UK at the time. In terms of the latter, I felt along with her all the way, remembering how I'd sobbed in the car with my mum over cuts that would summarily destroy what countless brilliant people had so carefully and caringly built, yelled abuse at various politicians on the telly, refused to go into teaching formally and made my own precarious work among other precariously employed young people. None of this ...more
Ali George
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked this up as part of my drive to read books by different female voices. I've read a couple of reviews by people who were disappointed it didn't focus more on Juliet's physical experience, and one or two saying the writing was detached - but I felt she explained exactly why she took that approach. Those very personal confessional narratives about being trapped in the wrong body didn't apply to her, and she's spent a lot of time trying to move discourse away from that narrative, which seems ...more
Willow L
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Trans’ and ‘memoir’ are, somewhat unfortunately, two words that tend to go together. When it comes to literature it is a genre to which transgender people have long been confined by publishers and a public hungry for sensational narratives of gender-crossing.

But critical work by trans people seeking to challenge some of the overly simplistic narratives which dominate in memoir and elsewhere has been developing since the 1990s. One of the best known and earliest of these critical interventions
Mar 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, memoir
I liked many things about this book. I learned a lot about transgender theory and I got a real sense of how dispiriting and frightening it is to live with the day-to-day realities of transphobia and fear of violence. I thought the social aspects of transition and the physical aspects of surgery were well handled: just enough detail that you knew what was going on, but never prurient or inviting the reader to dwell on them.
The thing I struggled with a bit was that I felt the sections on Juliet's
Giselle A Nguyen
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it
A deeply personal insight into the process of gender transition, with plenty of commentary about the cultural climate in Brighton and Manchester in the early 2000s. I particularly liked reading about Jacques' relationship with music and the local scenes, and thought she articulated quite acutely and evocatively how it feels to be dysphoric and what that means for everyday existence as a trans person. I also liked that the theoretical side of things was explained mostly in layman's terms - ...more
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this and couldn't recommend it more, definitely going to be distractedly reading Juliet's essays over the coming weeks at work. Just found one where she is reviewing Chris Kraus' latest book, nicely combining many interests. If I sound incoherent just trust me on this - go buy this book from Verso books and read it for yourself.
Michael Clark
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, lgbtq, non-fiction
Trans: A Memoir is an often gripping (and sometimes lagging) memoir, in which Juliet Jacques documents her struggles with gender dysphoria, anxiety and depression, and ruminates on her experiences while undergoing sex realignment surgery. At times Trans seemed to lag or feel too long, but I would still recommend the memoir to those interested in trans issues, gender identity and society’s response to these issues.

There were two reasons I have not given this memoir a higher rating. First, the
I really wanted to like this. I kept reading far past the point of getting something out of this. But ultimately, I just did not enjoy reading Julia Jacques' memoir. My theory is that she simply didn't want to write a memoir, as she reveals -- she just doesn't think that trans writers should be confined to confessional autobiographical writing. I agree! And ultimately, I think that her writing about trans history, interspersed throughout her memoir, is far stronger.

That said, the writing in and
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
"What if we’re not trapped in the wrong body but trapped in the wrong society?"

Part autobiography, part Trans theory, I feel that the combination worked well. The beginning of the book was hard for me to get into as after the first chapter I felt very disoriented. It took me awhile to realize Juliet lives in Great Britain and to translate the slang and cultural references. Also it was hard to pinpoint characters as they seemed to crop up and disappear disjointedly.

The book really picks up and
Stunning memoir of being a trans-woman and transitioning after college. Jacques writes from the heart, but ties in numerous educational points. I found myself looking up every movie, band, and book she mentioned, determined to view them after I finished her book. One of the best things that Jacques adds to her memoir that separates it from others is the parallel trans history sections at the end of certain chapters. They correlate her story with the history of the movement so that any person ...more
Nov 08, 2016 rated it liked it
In July 2012, aged thirty, Juliet Jacques underwent sex reassignment surgery—a process she chronicled with unflinching honesty in a serialised national newspaper column. Trans tells of her life to the present moment: a story of growing up, of defining yourself, and of the rapidly changing world of gender politics.

I saw Juliet at the Edinburgh Book Festival and found her discussion about the book really interesting - that she wanted to tell her own story but also offer a jumping off point in
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
So many books about trans individuals are a) written by cis people, b) focus on transition as the only viable storyline in a trans person's life, or both a & b.

Juliet is a fantastic writer. This book felt like a conversation with an intimate friend - colloquial, friendly, and inclusive of life beyond the scope of transition. In the epilogue, she expresses that she didn't want the entire arc of her book to be surgery - she has succeeded magnificently at this.

This should be on everyone's
Rachel León
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtqia
A well written memoir. At first I questioned the author's decision to start with her sex reassignment surgery and then move back in time to the journey that led there, but after I got further in, I didn't much care how the story was told; all that mattered was that it was. A brave, honest book.
Rory Green
Jun 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Really interesting mix of personal experience and trans cultural history. The sense of setting was strong and the interview at the end was a great way to finish.
Disclaimer, there could be several details listed here that could count as spoilers.

This was such a good read, I didn't want the book to end. But like all memoirs of people who are alive and well, history is still being written. And memoirs have become a common medium for trans people to convey not only their life story, but their beliefs, what they fight for and their hopes for the future (see Redefining Realness, Daring to Be Myself -by Janet Mock and Laverne Cox respectively, just to mention
i'll just vomit some words//phrases about the book to start:
>restrained--if hemingway is your shitty bigoted great-uncle, Jacques is your wonderful trans cousin
>realistic about what a human life is//isn't
>honest--feels much less aestheticized//mythologized than most memoirs. Jaques relates the conundrums and uncertainties of discovering her gender identity and transitioning, seemingly without dramatizing them in the slightest.
>merges politics and aesthetics in interesting ways,
Yaiza Canopoli
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt-recs
What an absolutely wonderful memoir. Not only was it interesting to follow the author's life - the way we follow it is also incredibly satisfying in its brilliant structure. I am an absolute sucker for memoirs that mix life writing with theory and a wider cultural history. The author does this incredibly well, breaking up her stories of mental health, work, and gender identity with fascinating information about everything from politics to literature. It is also generally a very intertextual ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I initially found this book a bit of a trudge, but I kept going, and I'm glad I did. The narrative, particularly in the first half, lingers on the mundane details of everyday life a little too much for me. But I understand the intention behind this, to offer a representation of a life that is ordinary in so many ways, as lives of trans people are so often sensationalised, weaponised, and even their right to exist called into question.

It is no real surprise that it is at the point in the book
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked this memoir chronicling a transwoman's journey into her decision to have gender reassignment surgery, coming to better understand her own gender identity, and also discussing transgender-related literature and films. The author does a nice job mixing the personal along with discussing literature related to transgender people and how it has changed through the times. She also frequently discusses the transphobic feminist authors--reminding us that not all feminists are created equal.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent book. I was interested in the degree to which it strains against its form - a memoir - and the honesty that Jacques approaches the writing process with. The limitations of writing autobiographically are presented clearly, but ultimately Jacques decided that these didn't override the necessity of writing such a book - not least because it is the sort of book which many people need to be able to read. Nevertheless, the justified cynicism about the form ultimately makes for a much more ...more
I have a number of thoughts on this book. Firstly, I like Juliet Jacques. People have made the criticism that this book is more about her than about 'transition'; the stupidity of that criticism aside, I think she's smart and funny and tbh, can relate to her as someone who also liked Morrissey well past the age that someone should be liking Morrissey. Also more seriously, I like her as someone else who tried to make sense of their reality through obsessively reading/watching films/docos etc ...more
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: empathy-project
Part of me feels it's unfair to review memoirs with star ratings: memoirs are someone's life experience, so who am I to say "meh, not enough social porn for me to salivate over - 2 stars"? Also, many memoirs are written by folk who may not be writers, and it shows, but the subject matter they need to get out of their system is worth 5 stars to learn about!
This all is to say that my 3 stars is a noncommittal urging: reading about the ups and downs of a person going through sex reassignment
Danni Green
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genderawesome, tft
A powerful narrative which interweaves personal memoir with incisive commentary on the representation of trans people in entertainment and journalistic media, as well as the political and medical implications of being trans in the UK specifically.

cw: references to media representations of transantagonist violence, suicidal ideation, coping with someone else's completed suicide, street harassment, graphic descriptions of genital surgery
Francine Maessen
Actually 3,5 stars. I enjoyed the theoretical parts between the more personal fragments and the huge amount of movies and other forms of art that are mentioned. Jacques provided me with a lot of inspiration for further reading (and viewing).
Brill stuff
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A delight to read.
Leah Bilson
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Honestly reading this after meeting Juliet and hearing her speak is half of what makes the book - going into it knowing what Juliet was trying to achieve re: trans narratives and her thoughts about trans memoirs. (She does explain a bit more in the epilogue if you don't quite get it from the actual narrative). But even if I hadn't heard Juliet speak this still would've been an amazing book and anyway who likes gender theory, feminism, or is just interested in the memoir genre should definitely ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it liked it
When trying to think of a way to summarise this memoir of gender dysphoria and transition, I kept thinking of the phrase 'radically mundane'. Jacques is acutely conscious of the clichés of trans-narratives and explicitly refuses to perpetuate them. There is no account here of her difficult childhood or any discussion of sex or sexuality; instead she writes about her love of football and post-punk, her struggles with money and boring jobs, and the difficulty of establishing herself as a ...more
Sleepless Dreamer
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I very much want to support trans creators but I also literally fell asleep while reading this. I admit that I'm sleep deprived and that the library in Zagreb is incredibly cozy but still.

So I think what you can really take from this book is that, well, trans people live as boring of lives as cis people. Juliet tells her story and some moments are written amazingly but most of the book lacks a plot. Juliet talks about employment and financial struggles but these things aren't with a specific
Dec 30, 2019 added it
This was quite approachable, the well-worn path of the life-story trans book. Mostly it's an easy and welcoming read, though there are regular dollops that might be collectively called "further reading" that kind of jar in the flow of things. However if this is the first thing you read on trans and gay issues then they are useful pointers on where you might want to go next.

There is lots of local colour, of the Manchester music scene particularly but also Brighton and a dash of the LGBT culture
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Juliet Jacques (born Redhill, Surrey in 1981) is a British journalist, critic and writer of short fiction, known for her work on the transgender experience, including her transition as a trans woman.

She grew up in Horley, and attended Reigate Grammar School for two years before her parents moved her to a local comprehensive school, followed by the College of Richard Collyer in Horsham, West
“We're forced to walk a difficult line by this insistence that we only write about our personal journeys," I told the audience. "We end up in this position of only being allowed to represent ourselves, but having to make sure we don't misrepresent everyone. This creates some division in our communities - everyone has their own opinion about what's good representation and what isn't, and you can't please them all." (p. 231)” 1 likes
“I have every respect for those who enjoy their film in black and white," said Andjela. "But still, my film is in colour." (p. 145)” 0 likes
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