Review of She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Review of She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney BoylanShe\'s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Published by Random House LLC on 2013-04-30
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Family & Relationships, Gay & Lesbian, Parenting, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

The provocative bestseller Sheís 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 Boylanís fresh voice, Sheís Not There is about a person bearing and finally revealing a complex secret. Through her clear eyes, Sheís Not There provides a new window on the confounding process of accepting our true selves.ďProbably no book Iíve read in recent years has made me so question my basic assumptions about both the centrality and the permeability of gender, and made me recognize myself in a situation Iíve never known and have never faced . . . The universality of the astonishingly uncommon: thatís the trick of Sheís Not There. And with laughs, too. What a good book.Ē óAnna Quindlen, from the Introduction to the Book-of-the-Month-Club edition.

Hey beautiful followers, I know this is kind of cheap of me, but I am simply swamped until 1 pm tomorrow, therefore I post you a book review I wrote for my women’s studies class! I hope you enjoy it ūüėÄ

Jennifer Finney Boylan’s memoir, She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders†provides a comprehensive overview of the transgendered experience. The book documents Boylan’s life from childhood until after the operation Boylan has to become the female she has always been on the inside.

While reading the book, I was struck by how much of an internal struggle Boylan’s life has been. It is interesting to me, what kind of a struggle it must be to have to hide your true self at all times. In the beginning of the book, Boylan refers to the greatest poem of all time, ‚ÄúThe Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot, which is rather appropriate since the entire poem centers around a man questioning whether he dares to be himself and to disturb the universe, whether he dares to do something so simple as eat a peach. Clearly, the parallels are there between Boylan and J. Alfred Prufrock, just read the line “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”Ě It is clear that both question whether they dare to step outside society’s dictates. Boylan dares to be what she knows she has always been, a woman.

The everyday identity crisis that those who are transgendered go through is disheartening. To continually deny who you are inside, to wake up in the morning and have to question why your identity is based on your genetic genitals must have been such a struggle. Jennifer Finney Boylan documents many issues including the issues of love and marriage and attraction. I felt terrible for Grace, Boylan’s wife, as she had lost her marriage. Clearly, changing genders is not simple and not always a win-win situation. Not everyone is going to be happy, but it seems Boylan had to become a woman in order to find inner-peace. Grace can move on, there isn’t exactly a shortage of men in the world.

Notable Quotes/My Reaction

“It seemed obvious to me that this was something you understood intuitively, not on the basis of what was between your legs, but because of what you felt in your heart. Remember when you woke up this morning I’d say to my female friends “and you knew you were female?” That’s how I felt. That’s how I knew.” p. 22

This quote grabbed me, because Boylan’s words rang true in my heart. I don’t wake up in the morning and think I am woman, hear me roar, I am a female. I’ve never had to question my gender, or think I was born in the wrong body. I feel Boylan makes a wonderful point about intuition, you just know thus this helped me to understand that Boylan just knew she was a female, plain and simple.

“It was a puzzle though, if Jenny was so very much like James, didn’t that mean she was not really female? And if she really was female, didn’t that mean she was someone unknown?” p. 153

This quote is confusion and conundrum personified. I feel identity is such a confusing thing, otherwise so many people would not have to go through identity crises. Jennifer presents a paradox here, which says, well if I’m Jenny, I’m also still James. How can you be both? However, I see it as no matter the name, Jenny still has the same soul.

“It’s like you get to be happy, and me, well, we all just wait for me to get over it. But I can’t get over it. I’m always going to feel betrayed by you, abandoned, like our little family was not enough. You know how I feel? Gypped” p. 217

This quote just breaks my heart. Grace says this while her and Jenny are discussing Jenny’s transition and surgery. I feel this quote shows being transgender does not only affect the person who is transgender, but also loved ones. My heart breaks for Grace, as it seems her marriage dissolves into sexless companionship. I am currently in an incredibly serious relationship and I could not imagine my partner telling me one day he was transgendered. I would feel exactly the same way as Grace. It’s easy to support the one you love when their problem doesn’t affect you. However, it is not so easy when the problem definitely affects your relationship.

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Shooting Stars Mag says

    nice review. i've heard of this book. sounds interesting.


  2. Awesome review. This book looks good. Love the cover.

  3. Very insightful piece. Society still has a hard time accepting peoples gender identities if they don't conform to the norm. You are right about Grace. She is a victim of of Jenny's quest for self-fulfillment.
    I hope you got a good grade on the paper.


  1. […] April at Good Books and Good Wine liked it, pointing out the heartbreaking relationship between Boylan and her wife, Grace, who struggles with the fact that the man she fell in love with is, in fact, a woman. Rebecca Ascher-Walsh at Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+, pointing out the glorious ordinariness that follows Boylan’s transition‚Äďas well as the fact that Boylan never misses a chance to remind us her best friend is Pulitzer-prize winning author Richard Russo, who contributes a foreword. […]

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