Monday, March 2, 2009

Review: Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides
529 pages

The first line of this book really catches your attention.

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

The story is told by a 41-year-old Cal Stephanides, who was born Calliope Stephanides. He tells of his grandparent's journey to America from Turkey, what they experienced once in America, how his parents met, and how he came to be born with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. 5-alpha-reductase is the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which is necessary for the development of male external reproductive organs in utero. Since Cal lacked this enzyme, his outer genitalia never full developed which caused him to be raised as a girl until the age of 14, when his condition was discovered and he decided to live as a boy.

I got much more from this novel than I expected. I really thought that it was going to be a story of a girl who really felt like she was a boy growing up, only to find out that she really is a boy. But, it was more about Cal's family and life growing up as a teenage girl, who had normal teenage girl worries (when am I going to get boobs???) and then found out about his true sexuality and made a conscious decision to live as a male. It's not quite the "I was born a girl, but really FELT that I was a boy my whole life" story, which makes it very unique. The other thing that surprised me about this novel was that the focus wasn't about Cal the whole time. It really focused on each member of his family at one point so I felt that I knew each one of them and their story.

I can definitely see why this book is on the 1001 books to read before you die list. It's a very interesting read.

8.5 out of 10 stars


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