August 08, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders

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In Season
Jennifer Finney Boylan
We gave it a B+

Boylan is a riveting autobiographical figure. Identifying as a female since childhood, Boylan undergoes a sex-change operation in his 40s. But the amazing thing isn’t the act of transformation, but what happens afterwards: nothing. As a woman, Boylan continues to raise two children at home with an eternally understanding wife, teach English at Maine’s Colby College, and hang out drinking beer with her best male friend. It’s the last detail that is both the richest and most troubling part of the book; Boylan is so tender and funny about the tested relationship that one wishes she had kept her buddy anonymous instead of continually reminding us that it’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo (who contributes a knockout afterword). Too often, Boylan comes across as starstruck — as if forgetting her own courage in reinventing the parameters of her life.

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