A Book Review: I’m Looking Through You by Jennifer Finney Boyan
I’m Looking Through You is a memoir about being haunted in more ways than one. Jennifer Boylan describes her childhood living in a reputedly haunted house, having to experience creaking stairs, doors opening and closing of their own accord, and figures seen in the corner of one’s eye. But Boylan was also haunted by herself, the ghost of a female in a male body. Her memoir looks back on a childhood and adolescence as a closeted transgender individual, as well as her revisiting the house to come to terms with her past. Two of the most moving scenes, in my opinion, are when Boylan is reading The Feminine Mystique and wondering when Friedan will mention the problem of women trapped in men’s bodies; and when Boylan hides from her father in the attic because she doesn’t want him to see his son wearing a wedding dress.
Boylan’s writing style is candid and humorous, with the occasional well-placed metaphor or snatch of imagery. Her biggest strength is characterization and everyone from her eccentric grandmother to her headstrong sister is distinct and, as cliché as it sounds, larger than life. Interestingly, Boylan’s strength may also be her weakness here, as the reader begins to question certain character quotes and plot elements. Some seem too perfect, too meaningful, too “story-like” to be fully effective autobiography. Seen as a story, though, I’m Looking Through You is a beautiful one. And if gender is a construct, could personal history be one also?
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