Christina's Reviews > She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders

She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
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's review
Jul 05, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: memoirs, non-fiction
Read from June 24 to 28, 2010

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 some kind of traumatic experience? Or did she always feel that way?

I wanted to know how she dealt with those feelings as a child. How did they manifest? How did other kids react? How did Boylan-the-little-boy cope? The memoir seems to jump from Boylan being a 4-year-old boy to a 10-year-old to an 11th grader.

I wanted to know why Boylan felt she had to become a woman. Sure, she tried living as a manly man and it never felt quite right. But why couldn't she just try not hiding that aspect of her personality and living as a man with a lot of feminine traits? Why didn't she try taking drugs to help her feel more masculine when she was a man? Or did she - and maybe not tell us about it?

I wanted to know about the surgery. How much did it cost? Had she been saving up for it? Or did it create a financial strain for her family? (Boylan is a college professor and her wife is a social worker. I can't imagine that they're rolling in dough.) And if it created a financial strain, how did the family cope?

In that aspect - Boylan's transition and surgery - the book seemed too unreal. Her kids took it well. Her wife, while upset, took it reasonably well. There was no yelling and screaming recorded in the memoir. It seemed like money wasn't really a problem. It just seemed too easy.

And how does Boylan feel now that she's a woman? Good, presumably. Is there anything she misses about being a man? Does she find it easier or harder being a woman? If she could undo it, would she? Or would she go through her transition and GRS sooner? Or would she do everything the same?


Would it have killed Boylan to provide some lyrics to the oft-mentioned song "She's Not There" so that we readers could understand why it's significant??


Why is it that Boylan's friend, Richard Russo, provides the most meaningful insight in the book in his afterword?

"She is not merely Grace, she is his grace - that gift from God that can never be earned, but must be rather freely and gratefully accepted."

Why didn't Russo just write this book for Boylan?
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02/05/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Bmojaddidi (new) - added it

Bmojaddidi I want to "like" your comment a million times. These are exactly my questions from Jennifer F.B.
Probably she left all of these question for her next book to answer them all :D

message 2: by Karen (new)

Karen Leonard I am glad I read your review. I was hoping the book answered these as I read the description. Perhaps I will wait for the sequel.

Susan She was born that way!

Thomas Flannery sounds like you expected this book to answer all your questions about transsexuality, rather than accepting this woman's story for what it is. I'd imagine if you wrote a memoir, you wouldn't feel the need to discuss your first period, how much you pay your gynecologist, what kind of contraceptive you use, or a host of other questions that you feel have nothing to do with the validity of your story.

message 5: by Patrick (last edited Feb 26, 2015 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Patrick Did you actually read this book? If you did, you would not be asking about their financial status. The author clearly stated that his other books were optioned for movies and he was hired to write screenplays, it was "raining money". Also, you would expect he would have health insurance coverage to pay for the medical procedures from his college and also spousal coverage from his wife's plan as well.

Also, you complete missed the point if you questioned why she had to become a woman. If she could have hidden "that aspect of her personality" or make it go away by taking a few drugs, she would not have to make the sacrifices she did to become what she needs to become.

message 6: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Did you read the book? Jennifer clearly states that she always felt this way, right in the beginning of the book. She coped by hiding her true desires to be a women. Also, nothing happened to her. Sheesh - she was born that way, as again, she talks about in the book. As to your other questions, things like cost will vary by insurance - I suggest a quick internet search for some starting numbers. You can also search for the lyrics to just about any song on the planet - and then make you own decision about how the lyrics relate to her story. I would suggest reading the book again. Most of your questions are answered.

Christine Cody Christina, I can only hope that now, nearly six years after you posted your review, you have realized that many of your questions have nothing to do with Jennifer's story. I would even go so far as to imagine that Boylan might consider some parts of her life none of your business or just advise you to look elsewhere for questions to your answers. She wasn't writing a technical treatise on being transgendered. She was telling the honest, beautiful story of her own life. As most of us know now, thanks to the public stories of Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and others, Jennifer was a woman who just happened to be in the wrong body. She fixed that. The details are private. The journey is wonderful. I, for one, am glad she wrote this book.

message 8: by Jack (new) - added it

Jack Your idea that there has to be a "deep psychological problem" for someone to be trans is very insulting.

message 9: by St (new) - rated it 4 stars

St Fu Also, she did post lyrics to at least 1 verse of the song She's Not There.

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