Monday, 13 June 2016

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family

Author: Amy Ellis Nutt
Genre: Biography, Non-Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 279
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Random House
First Published: October 20, 2015
First Line: "The child is mesmerized."

Book Description from GoodReadsThe inspiring true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning science reporter for The Washington Post

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn’t long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks and many of the things little boys were “supposed” to like; but Wyatt liked princess dolls and dress-up and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept and embrace Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo an emotionally wrenching transformation of their own that would change all their lives forever.

Becoming Nicole chronicles a journey that could have destroyed a family but instead brought it closer together. It’s the story of a mother whose instincts told her that her child needed love and acceptance, not ostracism and disapproval; of a Republican, Air Force veteran father who overcame his deepest fears to become a vocal advocate for trans rights; of a loving brother who bravely stuck up for his twin sister; and of a town forced to confront its prejudices, a school compelled to rewrite its rules, and a courageous community of transgender activists determined to make their voices heard. Ultimately, Becoming Nicole is the story of an extraordinary girl who fought for the right to be herself.

Granted wide-ranging access to personal diaries, home videos, clinical journals, legal documents, medical records, and the Maineses themselves, Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this immersive account of an American family confronting an issue that is at the center of today’s cultural debate. Becoming Nicole will resonate with anyone who’s ever raised a child, felt at odds with society’s conventions and norms, or had to embrace life when it plays out unexpectedly. It’s a story of standing up for your beliefs and yourself—and it will inspire all of us to do the same.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

My Review: Becoming Nicole details the struggles that a transgender girl had to endure as she made the transition from male to female.  The book does a good job at educating the reader about what it means to be transgender and raise awareness of the discrimination, harassment and other external struggles that transgender people face.

The author, Pulitzer Prize winner Amy Ellis Nutt, does a great job detailing facts about transgendered people, the discrimination they face, the history of LGBT issues and their fight for rights.  This information gives readers a sense of the magnitude of the struggle LGBT people continue to face to gain equality, understanding and respect. The reader is able to witness some of Nicole and her family's struggles and it was often maddening and heart-breaking to see what Nicole had to live through in order to be her true self. 

A lot of facts are given but what is missing is the emotional, intimate connection.  For a Pulitzer Prize winning author, I expected a lot more.  I wanted to know Nicole's side of things, as well as her identical twin and her parents' takes, each of whom struggled differently with Nicole's transition.  While snippets from her diary were referred to, Nicole is never given any page time to detail her feelings about being transgender, the harassment and discrimination she faced.  Instead the story is told by a narrator with a very journalistic, slightly removed, feeling.  I think that omission was a huge missed opportunity.

I am very glad that I read this book and that Nicole has shared her story.  While I wasn't a fan of how that story was told I applaud Nicole for coming forward and for her family for standing by her.  I hope that this book educates the masses about gender identity and the need for acceptance and understanding.

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