In an important way, the ghosts, those spectral nightwalkers, were the least of it. The Pennsylvania house that Jennifer (then James) Boylan grew up in was haunted more deeply than the sound of creaking steps or rapidly vanishing images in the mirror. As in her memoir She's Not There, Boylan's I'm Looking Through You charts a realm where even identity and presence are mysterious.
Boylan, an English professor, novelist and memoirist (She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders), tells of growing up in a haunted house in Pennsylvania, where phantom footfalls and spectral mists were practically commonplace. This was a fitting-enough setting for young Boylan, then a boy who longed to become a girl. "Back then I knew very little for certain about whatever it was that afflicted me," she writes. "[I]n order to survive, I'd have to become something like a ghost myself, and keep the nature of my true self hidden." In 2006, years after her sex change, Boylan returned to her childhood home with a band of local ghostbusters as she struggled to reconcile with her past as James Boylan, as well as her memories of family members she'd loved and lost there. This memoir is better suited for those interested in broader human truths than in fact (a disclaimer in the author's note explains that she's taken liberties in service of the story); readers in the former category are in for a treat. Boylan writes with a measured comedic timing and a light touch, affecting a pitch-perfect balance between sorrow, skepticism and humor. In spite of the singularity of Boylan's circumstance, the coming-of-age story has far-reaching resonance: estrangement in one's own home, alienation in one's own skin and the curious ways that men and women come to know themselves and one another. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
On the surface, this multifaceted memoir could be described as a story about a teenage boy growing up in a haunted house located on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia. In truth, Boylan, the renowned transgendered author of She's Not There , has written a delightful book about a variety of issues that have touched a childhood full of friendships, adventures, and odd encounters with spirits in her family home. She uses the metaphor of "being haunted" throughout to illustrate not only her boyhood experiences but also the memories that have shaped her as a person as she struggled with her gender identity throughout most of her life. Boylan's depictions of her Irish grandmother and her relationships with her father and sister are particularly noteworthy. Her writing style is witty, self-deprecating, entertaining, and often poignant, especially when describing family and friends who have passed away. An adventure to read, this is highly recommended for all libraries.-Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware Cty. Community Coll., Media, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School- Boylan's follow-up to She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders (Broadway, 2003) is a richly portrayed-and often laugh-out-loud funny-memoir of her youth. The author was a teen in the 1970s, living in a quaint old house in Philadelphia's Main Line. Her family, home, and boyhood share equally in this tale. Until a decade ago, Boylan was male, but as a youth she was coming to terms with the fact that she longed to have a body that matched her feminine identity. Instead, she was named Jim, escaped some social awkwardness by playing piano to the thrill of almost any crowd, and adored her older sister Lydia, the only character here who, years later, can't accept the departure of Jim for the arrival of Jennifer. Combining incisive memories of events as they may or may not have happened with compelling emotions that must be true, Boylan takes readers through family losses (the death of Lydia's horse), mysteries (the footsteps overheard in the old house's attic), comedies (finding himself trapped in that same attic in his sister's wedding dress), embarrassments (his drunk and irrepressible grandmother on the eve of Lydia's wedding), and thoughtful excursions (the responses of Jim's spouse and children to his transgendering). Teens who dote on family stories, as well as those who wonder what life might be like if you could change and still look back at what you had been with a large degree of comfort, will find much to delight in here.-Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Praise for I’m Looking Through You
Jenny Boylan’s I’m Looking Through You ranks right up there with Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club and Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life as one of the finest literary memoirs of the last several decades. Like these, it’s a haunting revelation of the human heart, its terrible longings, its fears and joys, the secret recesses where we most truly dwell. How alike we all are, down this deep.
—Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Empire Falls
Praise for She’s Not There
”There’s quite a story here. Ms. Boylan tells it with disarming humor and a sharp eye.…She’s Not There…brings irreverence and a merrily outrageous sense of humor to this potentially serious business.…Tender as well as funny.”
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Probably no book I’ve read in recent years has made me so question my basic assumptions about both the centrality and the permeability of gender, and made me recognize myself in a situation I’ve never known and have never faced.…The universality of the astonishingly uncommon: that’s the trick of She’s Not There. And with laughs, too. What a good book.”
—Anna Quindlen, from the introduction to the Book-of-the-Month Club edition
“Beautifully crafted, fearless, painfully honest, inspiring, and extremely witty. Jennifer Finney Boylan is an exquisite writer...one of the most remarkable, moving, and unforgettable memoirs in recent history.”
—Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors