This has an impressive number of high star ratings from my friends. My book club's pick for July, looking forward to it.
I think I have some things to say about this book. Not sure on star rating yet, I'll get back to you.
Sat on it for a few days, I'll give it a shot.
I'm really "into," I guess you could say, gay culture. I am a straight white woman, but I, along with my entire group of friends, enjoy going out to gay bars. My favorite Saturday night activity is going to a drag show. I (also along with about every hipster in the US, probably) absolutely love RuPaul's Drag Race. Pictures of same-sex couples getting married bring me to tears.
All that doesn't mean much. So I like a reality TV show. That doesn't mean I'm actually supporting the GLBT community.
Even worse, I am woefully uneducated when it comes to gender identity. I took Women's Rights 101 about 10 years ago, and we talked a little about what sexual identity means and why an essentially two party system is flawed not just in politics but in genders as well. There's more than two genders, I learned.
Then promptly forgot.
After learning that the main character of Middlesex was a hermaphrodite, I was intrigued. I thought this would be a golden opportunity to learn more about what exactly a hermaphrodite is. I'm not afraid to admit my ignorance - I had to ask. What's the difference between a hermaphrodite and a transsexual? The difference, come to find out, is that a hermaphrodite is born with reproductive organs of both sexes, while a transsexual is born as one sex but psychologically identifies as another. If you have more to add, please do, as I said, I am disgustingly undereducated here.
The sexual identity of Calliope is hardly contentious at all. In fact, it takes up only about the last 80 pages of this 550 page tome. The rest feels like Jeffrey Eugenides wanted to write a Greek family epic and somewhere along the line thought that adding a hermaphrodite would make him more likely to win the Pulitzer.
I realize that is incredibly narrow minded of me, but this book is NOT about a hermaphrodite struggling with sexual identity. It is not about how weird and awkward it is to be a teenager, and when you add sexual identity to the mix, how it can be life defining and mess a lot of people up.
It's about a Greek family, whose women might as well be cardboard cutouts of each other for how much personality they have, while the men are solid 3D characters with hopes and dreams and flaws. It's a little bit about the lifespan of Detroit, from the 20s to the 70s, but it is much more about finding work and life as a Greek immigrant.
Is that a bad thing? No. But it is not what it claims to be.
Don't go into this book thinking you'll learn more about sexual identity in America, because there is A LOT to learn, and Jeffrey Eugenides said particularly that he didn't WANT to interview any hermaphrodites or transgender people for this book, because he wanted it to be REAL.
"Mr. Eugenides's research into hermaphroditism, sexology and the establishment of sexual identity amounted to what Cal and his parents go through. Mr. Eugenides consulted experts and read widely, but he has never met a hermaphrodite." (source
Right. Because heaven forbid you have REAL feelings from people that have actually gone through this.
2 stars because whenever he described anything it was very easy to picture, but I won't be recommending this to anybody.