Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders


National Jewish Book Award Finalist for Memoir

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Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders

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National Jewish Book Award Finalist for Memoir

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"On the face of it, Through the Door of Life is the story of how Jay Ladin, the author and an English professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, transitioned into living as Joy Ladin. But it's Ladin's relationship with Judaism that anchors this book and makes it stand out. . . . Orthodox Jewish leaders should thank Ladin for refusing to hide out, for reminding us how human beings should relate to one another."—The Huffington Post

"Not only a memoir of transgender experience, this is also a story of family heartbreak and family love; of growth as a teacher and writer; and, not least, of a self deeply connected to God and Judaism throughout a life lived across genders."—Rabbi Jill Hammer, director of spiritual education at the Academy for Jewish Religion

"In painstakingly and painfully constructing her new self, Ladin is fully aware of the societal conventions and privileges of which she makes use. . . . But there seems to be a poignancy, of which Ladin is exquisitely aware, that precisely because what Ladin wants is so normal, her efforts to obtain it are so fraught with pain."—Lambda Literary Review

"Joy Ladin's book succeeds so well because it is anything but a trans tract; it is a fierce story of regular old human life: hideous choices, endless repercussions, occasional glory, frequent humiliation, abiding difficulty. It could have happened to us. She makes us believe it."—Kay Ryan, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

"Readers will be rewarded not only with an expanded understanding of a complicated choice but also a compelling and moving story of a person transitioning, not only from male to female but from a numb, suicidal 'nonexistence' to opening the 'door of life.'"—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Publishers Weekly
In this eloquent, bittersweet memoir, professor and poet Ladin (Psalms) leavens with literary artistry the often incredibly painful story of her gender transition from male to female. She describes her wife forced “to witness the slow erasure of the man she loved,” her children’s fury and bewilderment at the decision that broke apart their family, and the practice of love. In addition, she shares her navigations through and between gender, and her awkward, exhilarating “second adolescence” as she experiments with walking, dressing, and speaking as a woman; her conversations with God, messages from angels, and the surprising consideration and ultimate acceptance from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, where she still teaches. Transgender readers will appreciate Ladin’s nuanced, wide-ranging musings on gender and the longings, terrors, successes, and searing losses arising from her struggle to find life worthwhile and to live authentically. The book also offers family and friends of transitioning people insight into the complexity of their loved ones’ motivations and struggles. Readers will be rewarded not only with an expanded understanding of a complicated choice but also a compelling and moving story of a person transitioning, not only from male to female but from a numb, suicidal “nonexistence” to opening the “door of life.” Agent: Kent D. Wolf, Global Literary Management. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This is a cri de coeur from someone who felt he was born into the wrong gender and, after half a lifetime of misery, decided to do something about it. Jay Ladin, a well-regarded academic, father, husband, and Orthodox Jew, became Joy Ladin, who made news when she was allowed to stay on as an English professor at Stern College of Yeshiva University after she transitioned. Although her academic status was assured, the reactions of Ladin's wife, children, other family members, as well as other Orthodox Jews, was trickier. Portions of Ladin's text, e.g., her professed state of mind—wishing to be dead, yet unable to commit suicide—before the transition, may stretch credulity. Her hyperbolic perception of the change ("my transition from death to life") may seem over the top and indicative of her tendency to see things in black and white. Some humor would have helped (it is not clear whether, when Ladin writes that her "body was a no-man's land" before the change, she intends a pun; one suspects not). VERDICT Still, this account will no doubt be a source of comfort and inspiration to others suffering from gender dysphoria. Researchers and clinicians stand to learn a lot from it.—Ellen Gilbert, Princeton, N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299287344
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Series: Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiog Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 270
  • Sales rank: 634,719
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Joy Ladin, the David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, is the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. She is the author of six books of poetry, including The Definition of Joy and Coming to Life.

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Table of Contents

A Blessing (Spring 2007)
Introduction: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stern College (September 2008)
Part One
Who Will Be
1 Things Fall Apart (Summer 2005)
2 Being a Man (Fall 2006)
3 Girl in a Bag (Winter 2007)
4 In the Image (Spring 2007)
5 Suicide (Spring 2007)
6 Truth (Spring 2007)
7 Choosing Life (June 26, 2007)
Part Two
8 Adolescence (Summer 2007)
9 Mothering (Summer 2007)
10 Like a Natural Woman (July 2007)
11 Anger (Summer 2007)
Part Three
The Door of Life
12 The Day My Father Died (October 2, 2007)
13 The God Thing (Fall 2007)
14 The Voice of the Future (Summer 2008)
15 Two Trips to the Wailing Wall (March 2002 and October 2008)
16 Teaching Naked (Spring 2010)
17 The Door of Life (March 2010)
18 Try (May 2010)

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