Best-selling memoirist Jennifer Finney Boylan returns with an engaging parenting memoir/handbook for the “new normal” American family. While Finney’s 2004 memoir She’s Not There explored her transition from male to female and its initial impact on her family and community, Stuck in the Middle With You examines the long-term influence of her transition on her two sons and the experience of parenting them. “What kind of men will my children become,” Boylan wonders, “having been raised by a father who became a woman?”
The short answer is “lucky.” Blessed with two loving parents who remain together after Boylan becomes a woman, the boys seem like well-adjusted, smart and funny teenagers. Theirs is an eminently happy and functional family that has adjusted well to the evolution of one of the parents. Fans of dysfunctional family memoirs will have to look elsewhere for drama. The true value of this book lies in the larger conversation it seeks to open concerning the idea of the “typical” American family. Ultimately, Stuck in the Middle With You is a frank and funny advice manual for parenting outside the box.
Boylan expands her focus outside her own family to look at a wide variety of American families in a sequence of interviews with literary luminaries and gender outlaws. Richard Russo, Augusten Burroughs, Edward Albee and Ann Beattie all offer perspectives on parents and parenting in conversation with Boylan. This beautifully expands the focus of the book from the story of one family to a round-table discussion on what it means to be a mother or a father, or whether we should drop such gendered terms in favor of simply being a parent. Generous, expansive and open-hearted, Stuck in the Middle With You initiates a conversation and invites us to join.