My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation

( 2 )

Overview


A feminist film critic’s thoughtful, outspoken memoir about transgender and family

On a visit to New York, the brother of well-known film critic Molly Haskell dropped a bombshell: Nearing age sixty, and married, he had decided to undergo sugery to become a woman. In the vein of Jan Morris’s classic Conundrum and Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There, a transgender memoir, Haskell’s My Brother My Sister gracefully explores a delicate ...

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My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation

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Overview


A feminist film critic’s thoughtful, outspoken memoir about transgender and family

On a visit to New York, the brother of well-known film critic Molly Haskell dropped a bombshell: Nearing age sixty, and married, he had decided to undergo sugery to become a woman. In the vein of Jan Morris’s classic Conundrum and Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There, a transgender memoir, Haskell’s My Brother My Sister gracefully explores a delicate subject, this time from the perspective of a family member.

Haskell chronicles her brother Chevey’s transformation through a series of psychological evaluations, grueling surgeries, drug regimens, and comportment and fashion lessons as he becomes Ellen. Despite Haskell’s liberal views on gender roles, she was dumbfounded by her brother’s decision. With candor and compassion, she charts not only her brother’s journey to becoming her sister, but also her own path from shock, confusion, embarrassment, and devastation to acceptance, empathy, and the pleasure of having a sister.

Haskell widens the lens on her brother’s story to include scientific and psychoanalytic views. In an honest, informed voice, she has revealed the controversial world of gender reassignment and transsexuals from both a personal and a social perspective in this frank and moving memoir.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When noted feminist film critic Haskell’s “utterly normal” brother, Chevey, confesses his long-held desire to become a woman, Haskell sets out on a scholarly quest to understand her brother’s path to becoming Ellen in this intimate memoir. Approaching his 60s, following two marriages to women, Chevey simply states that he is going to “change.” Given Haskell’s background, it is not surprising she first tackles his transsexuality with academic rigor: what the book occasionally lacks in description, it compensates for in captivating, well-synthesized research, citing works from fields as varied as mythology, neuroscience, and religion. Haskell successfully employs these voices to aid her understanding of her brother’s surprising “second chance narrative.” Her personal tale of coming to terms with this surprise announcement and its aftermath shines through the research and references, becoming the memoir’s strongest thread. Coming from a well-to-do, conservative family in Richmond, Va., Haskell felt simultaneous grief for the brother she lost and acceptance of the sister she gained in a story of identity and the impossibility of fully knowing another person, even those closest to us. “You discover you don’t know the person you thought you knew,” an analyst tells Haskell. As the conversation surrounding the unknowns of what causes transgender continues, this work makes a significant contribution to its literature. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-08-15
Feminist film critic Haskell (Frankly, My Dear: Gone with the Wind Revisited, 2009, etc.) delves into the dramatic, deeply personal tale of her brother's transformation, in his early 60s, from a man into a woman. Haskell's story opens in 2005, when her younger brother, Chevey, confessed, "For as long as I can remember, I've felt I should have been born female. And now I'm going to become one." Stunned, the author struggled to reconcile her knowing Chevey as a conservative and "manly" guy with his impending transsexuality. A semiretired financial adviser, Chevey appeared to be happily married to his wife of more than 20 years, but his desire to live as a woman had grown so fervent, he claimed that the only thing that would keep him from undergoing gender reassignment surgery was knowing he would die on the operating table. During the course of the book, Haskell's brother, her only immediate family other than her husband, becomes Ellen, the name Chevey called himself in his fantasy life. The difficult transformation required numerous surgeries, including multiple facial reconstructions, painful other procedures and a move across the country to start fresh as Ellen. Haskell's journey was obviously less arduous than Ellen's, but the two are equally compelling, in part due to the ways in which Ellen's choice acts as a catalyst for Haskell's initial discomfort, growth and acceptance. With candor and sly humor, the author questions her ideas about womanhood and considers the relationship between gender and identity as they relate to Ellen, herself, and myriad films and other aspects of popular culture. At the heart of this intelligent memoir lies the process through which Ellen's transsexualism became, then faded from being, the primary fact of the siblings' respective lives. A discerning, vital memoir.
Library Journal
03/01/2014
Feminist film critic Haskell writes candidly about the journey her sixtysomething brother, Chevey, made to change his gender, becoming Ellen. She not only chronicles Ellen's life during transition, she describes her own journey to acceptance of her sister with wit and, of course, references to film and literature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670025527
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • Publication date: 9/5/2013
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 588,501
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Molly Haskell

Molly Haskell is a nationally recognized film critic and the author of three books of film criticism. She has contributed to many publications, including The New York Times, Esquire, The Nation, and Vogue. She lives in New York City.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 11, 2014

    This book was transphobic trash. Honestly I could not finish it

    This book was transphobic trash. Honestly I could not finish it because of how upsetting it is; if only you could see my annotations. The author continually misgenders her transgender sister and as far as I got, mostly complained about how hard it was for HERSELF rather than focus on her sister's struggles. It makes me sick people come away from this book misgendering trans women while exclaiming, "this book opened my eyes! I am so educated now" and continuing to utter the same transphobic crap as ever. Besides this, the writing sucked, to put it simply. In the end, if you're looking to become educated on trans people, read the newer autobiographies written by trans people today, not this.

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    I give this book a 2 thumbs up.

    This book really opened my eyes to how it must be to live a lie for so many years. But that is just what he/she had to do in order to be accepted by the main stream. I really felt bad about what he had to go through to become a woman. His sister who is writing the book in my opinion should of thought more about what he was going through, then what she had to endure to accept him as a woman.

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