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No Way Renee: The Second Half of My Notorious Life
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No Way Renee: The Second Half of My Notorious Life

by Renee Richards, John Ames (With)
 
In 1976, I was one of the most famous people in the world. The paparazzi were on my trail twenty-four hours a day, hungry for any photo, the less flattering the better. The mainstream press was better, sometimes. People, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated-I was featured in them all, an international phenomenon....And what had I done to merit this interest?...Simply

Overview

In 1976, I was one of the most famous people in the world. The paparazzi were on my trail twenty-four hours a day, hungry for any photo, the less flattering the better. The mainstream press was better, sometimes. People, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated-I was featured in them all, an international phenomenon....And what had I done to merit this interest?...Simply put, I had undergone a male-to-female sex-change operation and then had the temerity to play in an amateur women's tennis tournament.... To compound my audacity, I had not hung my head and apologized. I had gone to court, won my case, and played professional tennis as a woman.... I took a stand on principle, but it exacted an emotional and financial price. But I have not written No Way Renee as a justification of my life; rather, it is a look at the second half of a life that I hope no longer needs justifying.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tennis star turned transsexual, Richards retreads much ground from her 1986 autobiography, Second Serve, while opening a window on the consequences of her choices. Born in 1934, Richard Raskind was a Yale tennis star, had a navy stint and became a well-known eye surgeon. Always feeling that he was a woman, Raskind was on and off hormone therapy from the early 1960s, but married in 1969 and fathered a son. Six years later, he underwent sex reassignment surgery and became Renee Richards. What's new are the personal elements of Richards's life since then: her friendship and coaching experience with Martina Navratilova and her evolving, often conflicted relationship with son Nick. Holding Rastafarian beliefs and resenting his father, Nick skipped off to Jamaica at the age of 13 and had to be kidnapped back to the U.S. While the family fights and complications of surgery take place in the context of the author's transsexualism, they are mostly ordinary, as is much of her current life as "an old-fashioned American." More interesting is Richards's discomfort with current radical transgender identities and politics and her searing list of regrets at the end of the book, where she finally opens up emotionally. B&w photos. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Richards, born Richard Raskind, picks up her life story some 30 years after her famous sex-change operation. While her first book, Second Serve: The Renee Richards Story, also coauthored with Ames, concentrated on her early life and highlighted her efforts to play professional tennis on the women's tour, this book chronicles her later years and attempts to clear up an earlier misconception that she regretted her decision to change her sex. The first chapter recaps her childhood, including urges to wear her sister's clothes, and then covers her serial episodes of hormone treatments, surgery, and highly publicized but short-lived tennis career. But what happened after the media circus subsided and Dr. Richards—a practicing ophthalmologist—had to determine how she would live the rest of her life? Richards considers her relationships with her friends, her colleagues, and her son in a straightforward manner but still manages to reveal little about the people closest to her or their feelings about what she's done. In one instance, although she recognizes that her decision to undergo the surgery greatly affected her son and her relationship with him, her conclusion that the experience may have inspired him sounds overly optimistic. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ10/15/06.]
—Regina M. Beard
Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating transsexual testimony. Born in 1934, Dick Raskind had a confusing childhood. Papa Raskind wasn't home much, and Dick's mother, a psychiatrist, sometimes dressed him in a slip to make him look cute. From his earliest days, Raskind felt dogged by a "female side" he named Renee. When Renee took over, Raskind "minimize[d]" his penis and shaved his legs. Eventually, Raskind fell in love with, and married, a beautiful woman, and Renee seemed to go into remission. Raskind hoped that she was "gone for good," but she wasn't. Raskind finally split up with his wife and decided to have sex-reassignment surgery. (His arrival at that decision is skipped over in just a few sentences, one of the few unsatisfying spots in an otherwise detailed account.) Now Renee Richards, she takes a charitable view of the conservative era in which he grew up-there was, Richards acknowledges, no room for transsexuals in post-World War II America, but "the straight-laced culture of my time frequently offered a refuge from the craziness in my house." Richard recounts her post-surgery professional and personal struggles and successes. The author wanted a quiet life as Renee, but his accomplishments as a surgeon and tennis coach made that impossible-the press was all over Richards, and she found herself forced into the position of spokeswoman for all things transsexual (or, as Richards refers to it, "transgendered"). She addresses frankly her romantic encounters and, in the moving last chapter, offers a litany of regrets. She says that she's hurt people along the way, and she laments that she is "a facsimile," adding, "I think I'm a pretty good one, but I will never be more than a fax, a woman with a Ychromosome."An honest look at a courageous life.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743290135
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
02/06/2007
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

No Way Renee

The Second Half of My Notorious Life
By Renee Richards John Ames

Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2007 Renée Richards
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9013-5


Preface

In 1976, I was one of the most famous people in the world. The paparazzi were on my trail twenty-four hours a day, hungry for any photo, the less flattering the better. The mainstream press was better, sometimes. People, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated - I was featured in them all, an international phenomenon. Once, at the height of my notoriety, I found myself in Uruguay, where I had gone beyond the urban centers like Montevideo and was walking down the beach at Carrasco, a tiny coastal village. I was enjoying a welcome sense of anonymity, but a man in a little kiosk pointed to my picture on a magazine and with much excitement asked me to sign it, which I did. Recognizable even in the countryside of Uruguay: that sums up the Renée Richards phenomenon at its zenith.

During that time I was deluged by a myriad of television opportunities. All the major figures wanted to interview me: Phil Donahue, Tom Snyder, Howard Cosell, and many others I can't recall. I was on the Today show, Good Morning America, and a host of other major shows. I was even invited to do The Hollywood Squares, but I declined. I had my limits.

And what had I done to merit this interest? Perfected an organ transplant procedure? Gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Neither. Simply put, I had undergone a male-to-female sex-change operation and then had the temerity to play in an amateur women's tennis tournament. Of course there was more to it than that, but basically that was the source of my infamy. To compound my audacity, I had not hung my head and apologized. I had gone to court, won my case, and played professional tennis as a woman.

The story of how I got into that situation was told in my autobiography, Second Serve. Born Richard Raskind. Raised a nice Jewish boy. Educated at Yale. Tournament tennis player. Top surgeon. Lieutenant-commander in the Navy. Married to a beautiful woman. Father of a wonderful son. But compelled by a secret drive that could not be suppressed, even with years of psychotherapy and every trick in the book. Another entity, Renée, kept growing stronger and stronger until she eventually took over.

It was a long nightmare for Dick, and just when it seemed to be over, another one started for Renée. She had to walk onto a tennis court and endure the intense scrutiny of thousands of people. It was a choice, yes, but not a happy one and not made out of a desire to show off. I took a stand on principle, but it exacted an emotional and financial price. When I left the tour, I was very tired of the fishbowl.

But I have had more than twenty-five years to get my second wind, so I want to respond to the question I hear so often: "What have you done lately, Dr. Richards?" One answer is that I have been doing what I always wanted to do in the first place: live a private life. Yet I remain a subject of interest and live in the memories of the many people who followed my adventures years ago. Unhappily, their mental image of me is too frequently tainted by grainy tabloid photographs and sensational headlines. I don't deny that my life has been strange, but strangeness is only part of a complex whole that is not well understood.

I have practiced a highly specialized form of eye surgery for forty years, and I am still operating every week. I am also an educator, having served as a clinical professor, first at Cornell Medical School and later at New York University, where I continue on the faculty to this day. I have instructed and influenced hundreds of residents and postgraduate fellows who are out in the world putting my lessons to work. They think of me as a distinguished mentor, not a curiosity. In 2001, I received the Helen Keller Services for the Blind Award, Manhattan Branch, given yearly to an outstanding ophthalmologist.

Many people know that I coached Martina Navratilova to two of her Wimbledon championships, but few know about the many lesser-known players, both professional and amateur, whose skills I have helped improve. They have gone on to become ambassadors for the game I love. This behind-the-scenes contribution is at odds with the picture of Renée Richards as an unbalanced, publicity-crazy flake. I am not despised by the tennis community. I am a respected figure, despite my notorious past, and in 2000 I was inducted into the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.

And I am seldom given credit for all that I have done in the area that has made me notorious, transsexualism. I'm the first to admit that I have not been an avid ambassador for transsexuals. I do not think of myself primarily as a transsexual. In fact, I fought for my rights largely because I was personally affronted that a medical operation could overshadow everything else I was as a human being. But there is no denying that when I retired from tennis, the world was much more aware of what a transsexual was, and that familiarity, not to mention my success as a professional coach, dispelled a lot of the condition's scandalous overtones. I opened doors for those who came after me, and I am a hero to many of them.

But I have not written No Way Renée as a justification of my life; rather, it is a look at the second half of a life that I hope no longer needs justifying. It is the story of how I thought through and reconciled my bizarre family life; how my son and I coped with my changed persona; how I gave my new incarnation an adolescence; how I restored my medical career; how I searched for understanding, stability, romance, health, and a sense of my place in a changing world. It answers the question in the minds of so many, "Was your sex change a mistake?"

When I first exploded on the scene, I was in my early forties but was nevertheless a newborn who hardly knew how to respond when asked, "How does it feel to be a woman?" Thirty years later, I have enough experience to at least say something about how it feels to be a particular woman: Renée Richards. Why bother? Well, somewhere along the line, I became something I never imagined I would be, a notable part of America's social history. So, No Way Renée completes the record of my unusual pursuit of the American Dream, an ideal that encourages us to make of ourselves the most we can. It is a dream my immigrant family embraced and realized. I continue to believe in it.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from No Way Renee by Renee Richards John Ames Copyright © 2007 by Renée Richards . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Renee Richards is a successful physician and champion tennis player. Born in 1934 as Richard Raskind, Richards was thrust into the international spotlight by the disclosure of her sex reassignment surgery after she won a women's tennis tournament. She is a graduate of Yale and the University of Rochester School of Medicine, an Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, and the author of Second Serve: The Renée Richards Story. She lives in New York State.

John Ames is an educator and writer whose published work includes Second Serve: The Renée Richards Story and Speaking of Florida. He received his M.A. from the University of Florida, where he was a Ford Fellow. He lives in Gainesville, Florida, where he spent more than thirty years as an English instructor at Santa Fe Community College.

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