Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine

Overview

Throughout her childhood in suburban Ohio, Noelle struggled to gain love and affection from her distant father. In compensating for her father?s brusqueness, Noelle idolized her nurturing tomboy mother and her conservative grandma who tried to turn her into ?a little lady.? At age fourteen, Noelle?s mom told her the family secret: ?Dad likes to wear women?s clothes.? As Noelle copes with a turbulent adolescence, her father begins to metamorphose into the loving parent she had always longed for?only now outfitted ...

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Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine

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Overview

Throughout her childhood in suburban Ohio, Noelle struggled to gain love and affection from her distant father. In compensating for her father’s brusqueness, Noelle idolized her nurturing tomboy mother and her conservative grandma who tried to turn her into “a little lady.” At age fourteen, Noelle’s mom told her the family secret: “Dad likes to wear women’s clothes.” As Noelle copes with a turbulent adolescence, her father begins to metamorphose into the loving parent she had always longed for—only now outfitted in pedal pushers and pink lipstick.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A profoundly affecting account of her father’s long road to self-realization and a meditation on what it means to be female.”—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

“[Howey] never loses her sense of humor.... A clever writer, Howey takes this incredible material and creates a witty, warm, life-affirming memoir.”—The Washington Post Book World

“Howey’s voice is chatty and clear, sassy at times, with all the aplomb of somebody used to explaining an unusual family structure. Dress Codes is a mix of contemporary references and timeless emotion.”—The Oregonian (Portland)

“It’s hard to imagine any memoir of recent years that better exemplifies ‘family values’—in the form of openness, love, and the sharing of intimacies.”—Salon.com

“This memoir is told with an honesty and tenderness that truly sets it apart from other tell-all tales.”—Elle

The New Yorker
James Boylan grew up feeling that he was a woman trapped inside a man’s body; in his early forties, he chose to risk everything, including his marriage, to pursue another identity. This journey is the subject of Jennifer Finney Boylan’s memoir She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders. How could James—who renamed himself Jennifer—explain to his wife, Grace, and his best friend, the novelist Richard Russo, that he hadn’t felt at home in his own skin? The most moving parts of the book are the e-mail exchanges with Russo that Boylan reproduces verbatim. As much as Russo wants to believe his friend’s account of himself, he doesn’t find the character of Jenny credible: “Here, you insist, is THE REAL ME, the me I’ve kept a secret all these years. And yet [it] seems mannered, studied, implausible,” Russo writes. Russo misses the old familiarity: now, he explains in the afterword, he guards against small slips (“he” for “she”) that reveal how much he wants James back.

Noelle Howey remembers her father, Dick, as a distant presence in her childhood; he would come home, fix a drink, and retreat to his corner of the living room. So Howey feels that she gained rather than lost a parent when Dick divorced her mother and became Christine. As Christine, she was “kinder, nicer, tidier, better with children, interested in flowers and birds and chick flicks,” Howey writes in Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods - My Mother's, My Father's and Mine. It was “like the transformation of Mr. Hyde into Miss Jekyll.” Yet she wonders, “If all these wonderful traits were inside my father all along, why was gender the only means to let them out? Why wasn’t loving me—or my mother—enough?”

(Kate Taylor)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312422202
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 831,496
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Noelle Howey lives with her husband and daughter in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2006

    eh

    This was an okay book. It wasn't what I expected, but it passed the time and was almost redeeming with a few moments.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    Way too honest...

    I wonder what the author was thinking. I don't know why she needed to reveal all of the details of her life - especially her deviant sexual behavior as a teen. I understand that she went through a great deal, having to grow up with such dysfunction in her family, however, some things are best kept between the therapist and patient or in a personal journal. Good luck to her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2003

    A Great Family Story

    The book is a very major success by the author who had to tell the story of an average, middle-American family, where the father happens to be transsexual. Sentimental without being sugary; honest without being shocking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2002

    What could be campy is honest and touching.

    The author takes a subject that could become high camp and makes it a warm and sensitive account of both the transformation of her father's gender and his relationship with his family. The author moves between the three points of view (Noelle, mom, dad) very smoothly and leaves the reader with a clearer understanding of a misunderstood topic.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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