Saturday, April 25, 2009

JB piece in NYT: "Maddy Might Just Work"

My story in the New York Times is up and online. The title they gave it is either, "Maddy Just Might Work," or "The Other Side of My Boyhood." The actual title is "The Sleepwalker." More on this piece is in the post directly below.

In the meantime, here's the beginning of the story as it appears in the "modern love" column, and a jump to follow if you want to read the whole darn thing:

"Maddy Might Just Work"
© Jennifer Finney Boylan
published April 26, 2009

IN the last year of my father’s life, he started to sleepwalk. I was 27, and back in my parents’ house to help with his care. In the middle of the night I’d hear his heavy footsteps coming up to the third floor, where I lived in a room locked with a deadbolt. He’d creep through the hallway and open the door to the spare room, diagonally across the hall from mine, and lie down on the guest bed.

After a while he’d start to snore, and I’d know he was O.K., at least until morning, when he’d wake up, confused and angry. “Where am I? What am I doing here?”

He didn’t know I was transsexual, or if he did, he never said anything about it. I doubt he even knew the words “transsexual,” or “transgender,” and almost surely could not have explained the difference between the two. But that’s O.K. For a long time I couldn’t figure it all out, either.

Once, though, when I was in high school...(to read on, click here)

Friday, April 24, 2009

"The Book of Dads": & JB in NYT this Sunday, 4/26

An excerpt of mine from the forthcoming anthology, "The Book of Dads" appears in this Sunday's New York Times. The Styles section runs a weekly column called "Modern Love," and this week they're running "The Sleepwalker," which is about fathers, sons, daughters, and how being trans affects our families.

It's not the first time a trans person's life has been recorded in the column, but it's one of the first, and it's always good, I hope, to get work out there showing the complexity--and normality--of our lives. I've been especially interested in the relationships between transwomen and their fathers for the last few years--I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU is, in large measure, about my relationship with my dad. Anyway, look for the story this Sunday. It had to be cut by more than half to fit into the space the Times has for the column, but I imagine you'll get the gist.

I'll also put in a good word for the anthology here. The book was edited by Ben George, and is full of interesting work by writers--all men, except for me--you'll either be familiar with, or will want to be. It's a collection of essays "on the joys, perils and humiliations of fatherhood." I think it'd be a good gift for fathers day, and if you're a trans person, or anyone struggling with difference, the wide range of experiences in the book--and, yeah, sure, the Boylan essay--might do well to send out a little bridge between your experience, and that of your own father's.

I'll be reading from the Book of Dads, along with several other of the authors from the anthology, at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square on June 9th. If you're in the Boston area, I hope you'll come check it out.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Us on Oprah

The Boylans appeared on Oprah today, "Most Memorable Guests." You can read the online account of the appearance here.

The main thing is that my kids spoke: they wanted to advocate on behalf of families like ours, and other children like them. They did great-- as did Deedie/Grace, who shone.

You can draw your own conclusions about the context: the other memorable guests included the Texas Polygamist Wives, Ted Haggard, a 500 pound man, and so on.

Mostly, though, I am proud of my family. And yes, they showed the cover of She's Not There, which is a good thing. I'm hoping it's a good thing for there to be images in the public eye of families like ours, even if some the other guests were a little scary.

Zach had the best line of the show, though. Later he asked me, vis a vis the Texas Polygamist Wives: "Maddy, if you're going to have ten wives, shouldn't at least ONE of them be hot?"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

18 Again

I'm back from a swing through Connecticut, which took me to Yale on Thursday, and back to my alma mater, Wesleyan University, on Friday.

The reading at Yale University's Sterling library was a good and interesting event for me. Instead of my standard readings (usually stuff from SNoT or ILTY), I read a new and experimental story entitled "Six Graves for Seven Writers," which is set at the graves of six writers whom I have visited, including Melville, Dickens, Poe, Thurber, and Radclyffe Hall. The piece went over fairly well, although I learned that it's not exactly an easy sell to a crowd-- unlike, say, the thing i did in Seattle for the Richard Hugo house last month. It's a tremendous gift to be able to "road test" new work--the Marx brothers used to do this, back in the days of vaudeville-- and I heard all sorts of new things in the Yale piece that will help me as I go about revision, and possibily performing it again.

On Friday I got up and drove up to Wesleyan, where I was to see some old, dear friends, and also to serve as a guest at a dinner honoring the writer Edward P. Jones, whose "The Known World" won the Pultizer a few years back. There were lots of other writers and friends of the college there, and it was an honor to be part of the occasion.

But the thing I wanted to write about was the experience of being back on campus-- I graduated 1980, and did indeed love it at Wes. It was there that I was first encouraged by both faculty and other students to try to be creative, to consider maybe being a writer in this life. I still think of Wesleyan as a magical, odd, haunted, quirky place, full of eccentrics and geniuses and characters. I don't know of any other college like it in the world; I know that getting to go there, when I went there, was one of the great gifts, and turning points of my life.

Given all that, it was also a tremendously hard place to leave. IT's also true that when I think back of my Wesleyan days, I also think of how haunted I was then, as a young person-- trying so hard to "become" my magical creative boy self, but always held back by my secret self, by my knowledge that the thing I really needed to invent was my own self--and I knew that that invention could never be, or so I was convinced back then.

So when I go back to Wesleyan--which I do every four years or so-- I often encounter the ghost of my younger self, and that leaves me melancholy, feeling sorry for the weight I carried, feeling sad about all the lost time.

But this time it was different. I don't know why. But mostly, i felt grateful and happy to be there. IT was a beautiful day-- people everywhere, kids on the hill playing frisbee. As I first walked onto campus, i ran smack into a group of a dozen young women--were they dance majors?--all cavorting and chasing each other and doing somersaults and cartwheels. They were like a dance of spring joy, and all I could do was smile and watch them, and be glad. I kept that feeling the whole afternoon. I was glad to have come so far, glad to be back, glad for all the gifts of life. Above all, I did not want to be 20 again. I was glad I made it to 50 and that I have lived this life-- and look, here we all still are, dancing the dance of spring.

IN the morning I woke up and went to a diner breakfast with my friend and by noon on Saturday was heading back to maine, and home, and my family.

'This dream is short, but happy."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Why the Amazon de-ranking of GLBT books Matters

The online universe is alive this morning with news of's move to remove sales ranks from so called "adult" themed books. This seems to mean gay and lesbian books, specifically. By the time you read this, this may all well be old news; my bunions tell me Amazon is going to fix this issue today, in response to the wild and rightful cries of outrages, particularly on Twitter. (if you Tweet, you can follow the ongoing debacle via the subject #amazonfail, although I also suspect that Twitter and #amazonfail may well crash this morning as the internet fire grows.)

I'm one of the banned authors, and it's probably worth mentioning why this matters. I noticed the change on Saturday, and thought it was just an odd "glitch" (as amazon is now claiming it to be). What happens, though, is that you can't find my books by searching for them by topic; (although this is inconsistent throughout the country, depending on what server you get). If you search for "homosexuality", though, you'll get a half dozen books about how to prevent it; you wont' get a single book by anyone who is actually gay.

She's Not There, as most of you know, was one of the first bestselling books by a trans American; the fact that it had "national bestseller" on the cover helped legitimize it for lots of people who might have been timid about reading it. (Which they shouldn't have been, but that's another story.) That designation as "national bestseller" was in part a result of its amazon ranking. It would not recieve that ranking now, as a result of this policy.

More importantly, readers looking for my book by subject might not be able to find it as a result of this policy.

Amazon should know better. They've de-ranked books by James Baldwin, Rita Mae Brown, Christopher Isherwood. Mein Kampf stays. AMerican Psycho stays. "Heather Has Two Mommies" is out.

As I said, my guess is that we'll see a quick retreat by Amazon on this, but this is another good reason why we should trust our local booksellers instead of mega-corporations.

More soon.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Us on Oprah, again.

Today the Boylan family will tape, via Skype, a couple of segments for an upcoming Oprah Winfrey Show. This is an "update" show that will air either in May, or the summer. The agreement with Harpo asks that we not particularly talk about the show much at this point, but we're hopeful it will go well; our children will be on camera and are likely to be speaking for the first time about what they would like everyone to know is their good family.

As parents we have our fingers crossed. The Oprah show has been very generous to the Boylans in the past. On the other hand, there is always the possibility we will lose our minds on camera, and the whole thing wind up resembling the short video I post below:

-- 9 AM. Postscript below

PS. 4 PM. Well we're done with the show, and while confidentiality keeps us from being able to yammer all about it, I will say that I am very proud of my two boys, who were as eloquent as can be, not to mention Deedie, who is loving and proud of us all. We did NOT particularly get to talk about my writing, which discourages me a little, although they did show the cover of She's Not There. I'm hoping the show reaches people whom it may help, and as always it's a gift to be spotlighted by Oprah her self.

Will post the air date when we know it; last i heard was maybe May.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Photos from "My Avatar"

Some photos from the My Avatar performance at Town Hall in Seattle. Photos by the sponsor, Richard Hugo House.

Below you will see: Jennifer Finney Boylan with a remote mike; the Maldives playing live; the three writers: Vikram Chandra, Christa Bell, and Jenny B.; a nice one of my old friend Vikram (who also appeared as a character in my performance piece); and a great one of Christa Bell, the High Priestess of Cootchie.