Contact

For appearances:
Jayme Boucher at Penguin Random House:
jboucher@penguinrandomhouse.com

For press inquires:
Kris Dahl at ICM
KDahl@icmpartners.com

For information about Long Black Veil:
PR@randomhouse
rrokicki@penguinrandomhouse.com

To contact Jenny directly:
jb@jenniferboylan.net

Blog

  • JFB.com Blog

    “You guys look different too..” From the Main Line Times: JFB goes home again.

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    A piece from the suburban Philadelphia paper on my return to my old high school in December.  Very nicely done.

    HAVERFORD SCHOOL GRADUATE RETURNS TO TELL HER STORY.

    By Cheryl Allison

    You guys look different, too,” a speaker at the Haverford School told teachers and classmates in the audience, to break the ice.

    Admittedly, though, Jenny Boylan, Class of ’76, has gone through a transformation well beyond aging.

    Boylan, who attended the private all-boys school from eighth grade through graduation, did so as James Boylan. A professor of creative writing and American literature at Colby College in Maine since 1988, she is also a transgender woman, who made the physical transition in her early 40s.

    Her first return to Haverford in more than three decades last Friday morning to talk with the school’s Diversity Alliance and speak to the Upper School coincidentally comes as Lower Merion Township and several other local municipalities, including Radnor and Haverford townships, are considering adopting anti-discrimination ordinances.

    Lower Merion, the first of the group, was set to hold a public hearing and vote Dec. 8 on its ordinance, which would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

    After three versions, the legislation, whose drafting has had the unanimous support of Lower Merion’s board of commissioners, was expected to be enacted.

    Boylan, whose 2003 memoir “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders” was a national bestseller, is a Valley Forge native who grew up in Newtown Square and Devon. Realizing that your gender is not the same as that of the body you have been born into “is hard. It’s not something I would wish on anyone,” she told students. But Boylan, who was not open about her situation then, added, “One of the things that made it less hard was this place,” in the friends she made and in the teachers who encouraged a love of literature and writing.

    Boylan said she wanted to…(click here for the rest of the story)

  • JFB.com Blog

    The Library at Pooh Corner: JFB op/ed for the New York Times

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    This piece ran on the op/ed page of the Times on Dec. 22, 2010.

    The Library at Pooh Corner

    by Jennifer Finney Boylan

    BELGRADE LAKES, ME

    EIGHTY-FIVE years ago this Christmas Eve, The London Evening News published a short story about a boy and a bear written by an assistant editor at Punch named A. A. Milne, thus engendering four children’s books, a slew of films and videos and a merchandising empire estimated to be worth more to the Disney Corporation than Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto combined.

    (Not to mention providing the inspiration for Dorothy Parker’s most withering review, when she responded, in her Constant Reader column, to Pooh’s line that “pom” makes singing more “hummy” with the comment, “And it is that word ‘hummy,’ my darlings, that marks the first place … at which Tonstant Weeder Fwowed up.”)

    It also resulted in my finding myself in tears last Christmas in the Stephen A. Schwarzman building of the New York City Public Library.

    The story goes back 35 years. In the 1980s, I had a gruesome copy-editing job at E. P. Dutton, the American publishers of the “Winnie-the-Pooh” books. One of my colleagues was a crusty septuagenarian named Elliot Graham, whose title was director of publicity emeritus. Elliot was the shepherd of the original Pooh stuffed animals — Pooh, Tigger, Kanga, Piglet and Eeyore — which were kept in a glass case in the Dutton lobby on 2 Park Avenue.

    He’d take them to schools and literary festivals and the sets of early morning news shows. We used to talk about the Pooh animals together, Elliot and I, as if they were members of a rock band, and Elliot their long-suffering manager.

    When Dutton was sold in 1985, the Pooh animals became…(click here for the rest of the piece)

  • JFB.com Blog

    from the Philadephia Inquirer: JB Goes Home

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    Posted on Thu, Dec. 9, 2010

    by Diana Marder

    Jennifer Finney Boylan is at ease now in the living room of the Devon home where she spent her boyhood.

    She has not always been comfortable in this place.

    When she lived here as 13-year-old James Richard Boylan Jr. and had the whole top floor to herself, she did her homework with the dead bolt on the bedroom door, wearing the bra and sweater she kept hidden behind the room’s faux wood paneling, and trusting she’d hear the stairs creak if anyone approached.

    Now a professor of creative writing at Maine’s Colby College since 1988, Boylan, 52, is a visiting prof this semester at Ursinus in Collegeville. Staying in Devon has allowed Boylan cherished time with her mother, while driving to Maine once a month to be with sons Zach, 16, and Sean, 14, and her wife, Deirdre Grace.

    Their 1988 marriage weathered Boylan’s 2002 sexual reassignment surgery and they are together still as loving, if not entirely intimate, partners.

    Jenny Boylan is a tall, slender blonde who often gets hit on by men heedless of her wedding ring. And she is happily married, buoyed by the pleasures of parenting, teaching, and writing.

    Her groundbreaking memoir, She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders (Broadway Books, 2003), was the first best-seller by a transgender American.

    It landed her on Larry King Live twice, a Barbara Walters special, the Today show, the History Channel, CBS’s 48 Hours, and Oprah Winfrey (four times). She played herself in two episodes of All My Children, and Will Forte played her for a skit on Saturday Night Live.

    She got, still gets, tons of letters. Some from… (read the rest of the story in the INQUIRER here.)

    Read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/magazine/20101209_Transgender_writer_Jennifer_Finney_Boylan_comes_home_to_Philadelphia_area.html#ixzz17eAt70XH
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  • JFB.com Blog

    Rock and Roll High School: Jenny Boylan Goes Home Again

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    About a month ago, the Headmaster of my old high school called me and asked if I’d speak there.

    It’s probably worth noting that my alma mater, The Haverford School, was then and is now an all-boys school.  It was not known, in the 1970s, for being particularly compassionate toward those in the culture who are different.

    And so, when the Headmaster, Joe Cox, asked me to speak at Haverford, I was cautious.  I thought– okay, what about this does NOT sound like the kind of dream you’d wake up from, screaming?  You’re back at the podium of that school, after your sex change.  Before you is a room full of creatures like the ones you knew back in the day.  Oh, and by the way:  did I mention that in this dream, you’re also horribly old?

    I thought about all this for about five seconds, and then I said to the Headmaster: Sure, why not?

    Why would I agree to such a thing?  Well, because in addition to all of the above–which is no small amount of baggage, to be sure– I also have tremendously warm memories of that school as well.  The teachers– many of them, anyhow–were amazing.  And the friends that I made then I have kept.  It’s fair to say that I liked school–as much as anyone does–that I loved all that reading and the care of the teachers and the comraderie of my ne’er-do-well partners-in-crime. So why would I not want to go back and see what the place has turned into? Surely I, of all people, ought to admit that all sorts of things are capable of surprising changes.

    Still, when I woke up yesterday morning, in my old high school bedroom (I’m living back in this area for the fall, taking care of my mom) my very first thought, was the very same one I had forty years ago, in that very same room, first thing in the morning.  Oh shit, I’ve got to get ready for school.

    My old English teacher, Robert Ulysses Jameson, about 1971. His nickname was "Chopper."

    I admit I was kind of freaked out as I headed over there, following the same route I used to drive to school every morning from 1970-1976. I passed all the old landmarks:  there was the place my sister went to school.  Over here was the place where I’d totalled my car on the first day of my senior year.  I was thinking, why did I agree to this?  Is it that I just can’t say no?  Or is it that even now, I am still seeking some sort of approval?  That I crave standing up and speaking my truth out loud in these hallways, even if that truth is being spoken about 40 years too late?

    I parked my car and headed over to the Headmasters office.

    As the Headmaster ushered me in to my first meeting with students, I found something else that had changed:  the meeting was with something called the Diversity Council.  There was a group of students of color, students from around the world.  No one outed themselves, but would I have been stunned and shocked if anyone had?  I would not.  They were this remarkable group of boys: articulate, respectful, curious, full of sparks.  At the end of my forty minute meeting with them I thought, pardoning the expression, Holy Cow, man.  This is not your father’s Haverford School.

    Then I was ushered into a Sixth Form English classroom.  It’s worth saying that Sixth Form English was just about my favorite thing on earth, back in the day. And some of the boys were sitting in their desks just like I used to– leaning back in my chair, my long legs way out in front of me, tie askew.  I remembered being in Mr. Hallowell’s class, back in 1975, and listening as he opened the gate to the works of poets that changed the way I saw the world:  Keats.  Blake.  Coleridge.  Eliot.  I still have the textbook Hallowell used, “The Major Poets.”  I have carried it with me to every home I’ve ever lived in, have taken it with me in my backpack and suitcase around the world.

    The boys in that class had read my books. Carefully.  They were full of questions:  curious, skeptical (in the best possible way), interested.

    Next stop: coffee and pastry with–ta-da– my old teachers.  Four of them still work there.  One of them had the ROLL BOOK FROM 9TH GRADE BIO, 1972.  He showed me the long line of grades for BOYLAN, JAMES:  85, 72, 60, 29, 75, etc.  I thought, I got a 29 on a quiz?  Seriously?  My final grade for the year:  79.  A C+. I said to my old Bio teacher, “I’m so embarassed. A C plus!”  He replied, merrily, “Jenny, remember that in 1972, a C+ was “above average.”

    And finally, it was on to the theatre, where all the boys lined in to listen to me speak.  Was I jumpy?  I was when I started.  I thought, this is just like that dream– I’m back in my old school.  I was crazy to do this.  And then I was introduced, and i strolled across the stage, and I started to talk.

    After that, I read the piece from the new IT GETS BETTER anthology, coming out in March from Penguin. And then it was Q and A time– and the boys peppered me with good questions.  Which I fielded, tried to answer as best I could.

    When it was all over, the following thing happened:  the boys LEAPED to their feet, all 300+ of them, and cheered like I was Elvis.  It was one of the most astonishing moments of my life.  In all the many ways I had imagined this morning might conclude, this was never one of the scenarios.

    Then the Headmaster came out on stage and gave me a medal.  Or a coin, I don’t know what to call it– but it has the school’s shield, along with the words: Honor. Integrity. Courage.

    It took me exactly no time at all to speak into the microphone in the voice of the Cowardly Lion:  Look what my medal says. Courage!  Ain’t it the truth? Ain’t it the truth!

    We adjourned for lunch with my old teachers, a few old classmates.

    As I sat there with my old friends and teachers, I thought, with amazement, how the world is full of wonders.  Full of unexpected transformations.  Not only my own, but even in places like this.  We have all come so far.  I thought of those remarkable young men from the Diversity Council I’d met that morning, and smiled.   I thought of that Paul Simon song: I believe in the future, we will suffer no more.  Maybe not in my lifetime, but in yours I feel sure.

    After which, I was left to wander around the old school, alone with my thoughts.  As I walked around the place, listening to the sounds of teachers teaching, musicians practicing,  I suddenly heard a set of footsteps behind me, running down the hall, moving further and further away.  Someone was late for something.

    I turned around.  But there was no one there.

  • JFB.com Blog

    Jenny Boylan on What Monsters Can Teach Us

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    Jennifer Boylan (English) and sons Zach, left, and Sean, who served as“consultants” for Boylan’s new novel, Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror

    By Sarah Braunstein

    Photos by: Heather Perry ’93

    Colby English Professor Jennifer Boylan isn’t afraid of ghosts. Or monsters. Or, for that matter, metaphors. When it comes down to it, Boylan doesn’t seem afraid of much at all—and she has written a bold new book asking young readers (and adults, for that matter) to think again about the scary things in their own lives.

    In Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, Boylan takes us on a wild ride, daring readers to share an adventure story, explore the possibilities of identity, and figure out just what it means to “be yourself.”

    At 13 we all feel like monsters. Our bodies and voices aren’t our own. Our parents have become strangers. We’re forced to decode a new and complex social order. Adolescence is brutal—for Falcon Quinn, it’s doubly challenging. One day this plucky, kind-hearted kid from Cold River, Maine, boards what appears to be a regular school bus and is shuttled at harrowing speed to a supernatural boarding school on a mysterious island. There he is greeted by Mrs. Redflint, a no-nonsense administrator who happens to breathe fire. Contrary to what he’s always believed, Falcon is not human, Mrs. Redflint announces.

    Welcome, friends, to the Academy for Monsters. (Click here for the full story)

  • JFB.com Blog

    JB in Chicago this week!

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    Greetings culture lovers, as Bullwinkle used to say. Two events for me this coming week in Chicago represent my first appearances in the Midwest in what seems like a long time. First stop is a workshop event Friday at the Belic Institute of Columbia College Chicago, starting at 10 AM. I’ll be reading from my new novel in progress (forthcoming from Random House in 2012) as well as other earlier work, and talking about craft. And on Sunday at 10 AM, I take the stage for the Chicago Humanities Festival, where I’ll be talking about She’s Not There and Falcon Quinn.

    It’s a great treat for me to be able to make this visit to Chicago, and to do these two events, so I hope you’ll all turn out. Tune in next time for our next episode, Upsy-Daisium, or, Venn Ve Get Moose und Squirrel?

  • JFB.com Blog

    School Library Journal: On Falcon Quinn, JB, and diversity issues for YA readers

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    The amazing Betsy Bird posted this truly sweet interview with me, about Falcon Quinn, on the School Library Journal blog today:

    falconQuinnTitle
    I don’t often host folks who’ve appeared on Oprah, Larry King, The Today Show, and a Barbara Walters Special (just to name a few).  Few of the authors I speak to in my interviews have been portrayed on Saturday Night Live by Will Forte.  And fewer still are on the judging committee of the Fulbright Scholars.  But that’s the thing about Jenny Boylan, you see.  She keeps you guessing.  You don’t know what she’s gonna do next.  Like, say, for example, write a middle grade novel about a boy who, at the onset of adolescence, discovers that he’s turning into a monster.  That’s the premise of Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirroron one level.  On another level you have a story within a story that I think a lot of kids are going to be able to identify with.  Ladies and gentlemen, it is my supreme honor to introduce to you the newest voice in the children’s literary sphere.  One, I assure you, that you have not encountered before.

    Fuse #8: You are, to the best of my knowledge, the only transwoman to successfully publish a work of children’s fiction with a major publisher in the United States under her own name.  To say that you are groundbreaking is to put it mildly, and this is but one of your many accomplishments.  You’ve written for numerous periodicals, appeared on multiple television shows, taught creative writing as a professor, and on and on it goes.  Care to give us the full background and lowdown on who exactlyJenny Boylan is?

    Jennifer Finney Boylan: Well, that makes me sound quite fabulous, I must say. But I guess I just see myself as a storyteller.  I know I’m seen as some sort of spokeswoman for civil rights but the only thing I really know how to do is tell stories.  Still, that’s a good day’s work, isn’t it?

    It’s true that being trans has given me the opportunity to tell a particular kind of story that hasn’t generally been told, at least not by someone trained as a writer, and I’m grateful for that.  It seems to me that we can break through to people with stories in a way that we can’t in any other way.  My mother has a saying, “It is impossible to hate anyone whose story you know.”  And so I have tried to tell stories of people who are…

    (click here for the rest of the interview…)

  • JFB.com Blog

    JB at Chicago Humanties Festival…

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    An extremely generous blog entry regarding SHES NOT THERE. This piece is in advance of appearances at the Chicago Humanities Festival in early November. Hope readers and friends in the land of Lincoln will come to the events, one at the festival, and one at the Belic institute of Columbia College Chicago.

  • JFB.com Blog

    In Memoriam, Charles Walker Bassett.

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    To the Colby Community:

    I write, with great sadness, to inform you that Charles W. Bassett died last night after a long bout with cancer.

    Charlie came to Colby in 1969 as an assistant professor of English and a scholar of American literature, and I hardly need to tell anyone receiving this message what a profound impact he had on the College, on his students, and on his colleagues. It is entirely fitting that an award given each year by the senior class to a member of Colby’s faculty, an award that celebrates outstanding teaching, is named for Charlie; he will be remembered by many Colby alumni as the finest teacher they encountered on Mayflower Hill.

    I know that many in the Colby community will be moved in the coming days and weeks to discuss Charlie’s accomplishments here, and of course that story will be told in our publications. What may get lost in the personal reminiscences of Charlie as teacher and mentor is recognition of his central role in the development of Colby’s American Studies Program, which he built into an nationally recognized model for such programs at liberal arts colleges. Eugene Leach of Trinity College said of Colby’s program under Charles’ leadership, “The achievement was, in short, to build in the space of less than a decade a program that inspired more enthusiasm among its students, and more loyalty among contributing faculty (despite all their competing academic audiences), than any other small-college program I have ever seen.” Professor Leach – in a letter he wrote in 1994 in support of an award nomination — put his finger, too, on how the achievement happened: “The heart of it was Charlie’s teaching,” he wrote, “passionate, engaged, learned, light-hearted but firmly holding to serious purposes, attentive to students’ interests and needs while also holding students to the highest of standards.”

    Charlie retired in 2000 as Lee Family Professor of English and American Studies but continued to teach part-time in the Integrated Studies Program for another half-decade. The title of his occasional column in the Echo said it all about Charlie and Colby: “I’m Never Going to Retire.” He even played host to a WMHB radio program in his later years, specializing in jazz and swing music.

    Charlie’s wife, Carol Hoffer Bassett, who taught for many years in Colby’s math department, died in 1995. He is survived by his children, David and Elizabeth, and grandchildren. Details about remembrances for and of Charlie will be forthcoming. Flags on campus will be lowered in his honor.

    Amid the solemnity and the sadness, however, we really can’t honor Charlie unless we smile. You simply have to smile when you think of him pacing in the classroom or on the soccer sidelines – and not keeping his opinions to himself about the team’s performance – reading ghost stories to students on Halloween along with Jenny Boylan, or telling Colby magazine, when Carol fell ill, how it felt to be the object of Mayflower Hill’s deep affection. “I guess that’s the glory of a place where you know your students, where you know your friends are your friends,” he said. “I know that sounds trite, but it’s true.”

    Sincerely,

    Bro Adams
    (President, Colby College)

  • JFB.com Blog

    It Could Be Worse

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    It Could Be Worse
    © 2010 Jennifer Finney Boylan

    The current state of the nation–and the Democratic Party in particular–is reminiscent of the scene in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein in which the scientist and his sidekick, Igor (“that’s EYE-gor”) are digging up a corpse in a haunted graveyard.
    “What a filthy job,” observes the doctor.

    “Could be worse,” replies Igor.

    “How?”

    “Could be raining.”

    At this moment, of course, there is a crack of thunder, and the deluge begins.

    By almost any measure, the country is in what economists call “a haunted graveyard.” The deficit soars, unemployment hovers just below 10%, our military remains mired in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and terrorist threats keep the world on edge. For months now, pundits and pollsters have been predicting that in the upcoming midterm elections, Democrats are going to suffer the wrath of the American voter– for the state of the economy, for the state of our politics, for the state of the world.

    The best argument the Democrats have, unfortunately, is the one Igor was trying to make. “It could be worse.”

    It’s the Democrats misfortune, though, that Americans don’t care that it could have been worse. Because it’s just started raining.
    In an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel this week, Herb Allison, Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability (and chief overseer of the TARP program), said, “It’s hard to prove a negative. It’s hard to really demonstrate what the economy would have been like if TARP had not been created. It kind of reminds me, though, of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” because, as you recall, in the movie, George Bailey is shown what his hometown would have looked like had he not lived, and things were pretty tough.”
    There’s a word for what he’s referring to. Potterville.

    Most economists agree that the country probably would be looking something like Potterville about now, had we not saved the banks, and the insurance industry, and the automobile industry. As Allison notes, “It was a true national emergency, and there was really no alternative.”

    There was a time when Democrats and Republicans agreed on this. The TARP program, of course, was initiated by then-president Bush, and candidate McCain suspended his campaign for a few days in October 2008 in order to attend an economic summit with the President and then-candidate Obama. Republicans–and Democrats–seemed to understand that preventing the complete collapse of the banking, insurance, and automobile industries was, all things considered, a good move.

    But now, with the election season in full swing, it’s hard to find a politician willing to say as much. If there’s anything the two parties agree on right now, it appears to be the pledge to end these feckless “bailouts” and “handouts” Even if they were the very things that saved us all from Potterville.

    It’s as if the captain of the Titanic, through some miracle, had been able to see the iceberg coming, and managed to change the ship’s course, avoiding the collision. Upon arrival in New York, however, the captain finds the passengers aren’t grateful at all for the lives that have been saved. Instead, they’re angry–wrathful and ready for the 1912 version of the Tea Party, in fact– because they’ve all arrived late at their destination.

    How much worse might things have been, without TARP, without the stimulus, without all of the dreaded “overreaching government?” An economist at Princeton, Alan Binder, and Mark Zandi, of Moody’s Analytics, released a report over the summer which estimated that without the government’s actions, unemployment would have reached 16.5%; the gross domestic product would have dropped– instead of growing at a rate of 3%–and the deficit, currently 1.4 trillion, would have been 2.6 trillion instead.

    But “It Could Have Been Worse!” doesn’t make for a very good campaign slogan. Not compared to, say, “Yes, We Can!”

    The Republicans can happily run on a platform of “Look How Bad It Is!” All you have to do is take one good look around to see the truth of this–the cutbacks, the foreclosures, the bankruptcies. Asking those same voters to imagine a world even worse than this one–and to blame the Republicans for it– is no small feat. And yet it’s the feat that Democrats have to perform. It’s as if the party has to channel some nether-version of Bobby Kennedy on Lithium: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things of things that never were, and say, whoa, now that would have been really bad.”

    Voters can be forgiven right about now if they feel something like Han Solo and Princess Leia stuck in the garbage chute in Star Wars– after all, if the current state of the economy isn’t the equivalent of a garbage chute, then what is? In that scene, Han Solo complains to Leia, “Look I had everything under control until you led us down here! Now it’s not going to take them long to figure out what happened to us.”

    Leia replies, “It could be worse.”

    At this moment, an unseen creature, hidden somewhere beneath the ruins, softly growls.

    Han says, “It’s worse.”

  • JFB.com Blog

    JFB at George Mason University today

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    Please join me today (friday, September 24) at George Mason University, in Fairfax, VA, at 1:30. This is part of their Fall for the Book Festival 2010. And there will be a reception @ 3 pm hosted by the GMU dept of Womens, Gender & Sexuality studies. If you’re in the DC area, I hope you’ll stop in. Reading will be a Boylan pu-pu platter of excerpts from She’s Not There, Falcon Quinn, and the new novel, I’ll Give You Something to Cry About. Monster Up!!

  • JFB.com Blog

    Notes on Southern Comfort Gender Conference, 2010

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    I am just back from the 2010 Southern Comfort Gender Conference in Atlanta. I’ve been going to this event for good few many years now, since I gave the keynote address in 2005. Every year is little different.

    IMG_4038

    Jenny Boylan and Donna Rose, Southern Comfort 2010

    I went down there hoping to see a handful of old friends, as well as a couple new ones. In the latter category are a couple–Chelsea and Ruby from Vancouver–whom I was meeting for the first time. Sort of.  In fact Chelsea, formerly Chip, was a member of my high school class. Given the fact that I went to a supposedly all-male school, and that there were only 68 members of my graduating class, the fact that there are two of us who have emerged as trans is more than a little interesting.

    Chelsea and I met  for the first time in 34 years and I think felt more or less immediately at home. I was reminded of that song from Simon and Garfunkel containing the line, “after changes upon changes we are more or less the same.” And Ruby was particularly delightful–soulful and compassionate–and, perhaps more pragmatically for anyone who hangs out with me for a very long, able to sing two-part harmony at the drop of a hat.

    I will say that Ruby reported feeling more than a little alienated at times during the conference; she went to a Sexuality workshop that didn’t really talk at all about wives who stay with their MtF partners after transition, women who–like my own spouse–found themselves in a same sex marriage.  This, combined with another couple of events where partners were given short shrift, really made Ruby feel left out.  Another example: there was a survey that asked conference members how they identified–TS, CD, genderqueer, MtF, FtM, and so on. There was, in fact, no box for Ruby to check at all, leaving her feeling marginalized and grumpy.  And I can say that this has been a complaint about SoCo for years; that it has not improved makes me sad.

    At the same time I will quickly say that the people who put on Southern Comfort do an incredible job, and I hate even suggesting second-guessing them.  It’s a wonder the thing happens at all, let alone staying going for 20 years now, and I know that for many trans people, it’s the most important event of the year.

    Some other thoughts:

    • I brought a pile of papers to grade from Ursinus this time, and both Friday and Saturday mornings at the conference were largely consumed with grading. I was glad to get the work done, but it also made me laugh. Who else would go to a transgender conference, and spend half her time in her hotel room grading English papers?my main event was a reading on Saturday, billed as a reading from FALCON QUINN. I did read a piece from FALCON, but I also read a piece from my new novel in progress and I am happy to say it sounded really good out loud. I had people gasping and weeping, quite literally. So that felt like a good day’s work, not to mention being a nice vote of confidence in the work in progress.

    • After the Saturday event I decided to do something I generally don’t do, which is to go in search of people who seemed troubled or alone. These trans-conferences can really have a kind of intolerable pecking order, and I’m sorry to say that as a published author and a woman who is more or less passable, I live near the top of the pyramid.  So I walked around for a couple hours talking to people, listening to stories, hearing of people’s joys and sorrows. I was telling myself I was being saintlike,  and it is true that I was trying to give of myself.  But here is the twist: at a certain point I ran into a woman in a wheelchair with scabrous growths all over her legs. I prepared myself to take in her tale of woe. Instead, I was amazed to hear her story., which instantly transformed her into the saint, and me into the unexpected recipient of grace.   Angel suffers from a rare form of diabetes that has given her this skin disease and left her mostly unable to walk. And yet she is surely the most positive, joyful, delightful person I have met. What she said to me sounds so much like a cliché, the stuff of greeting cards and crappy e-mail chains. But she said that she could die any day. And thus that every day is a gift. I held her hand and looked into her face and all I can say is that it was like staring into a very very bright light. Of all the people I have met at various events over the years, I have never met anyone like this. And check out her name: ANGEL SPARKS. How perfect is that?

    • I left my conversation with Angel and walked around the hotel in a mysterious and hopeful fog. Outside, the rain began to come down. And as everyone else rushed back inside, I went out there and opened my arms up like Jon Locke on LOST, and felt the rain hammer down on me. And I felt alive.

    • More or less drenched, I went upstairs and ran into several of my friends, and sang for them an old Beatles song, “Rain.” When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads. They might as well be dead. When the rain comes. I can show you, that when it rains and shines, it’s just a state of mind. I can show you. I can show you.

    • I had two delightful dinners “off-campus” away from the convention–one with my old friend Donna Rose, one with Mara Kiesling and Dr. Marci Bowers. In the midst of the second one of these, again the skies opened up and Mara and Marci and I watched the rain come down and drank a bottle of red wine. And I sang to them, every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven.

    • I will admit that I also felt, on occasion, the tremendous melancholy that hovers in our community. They are so many people who suffer and carry a burden they cannot understand, who are scorned by others. Sometimes I feel that very strongly. And it makes it hard for me to be at the center of things. I know I should just shut up and relax and join the party, but frequently it all just sweeps me away.  And I feel as if there is nothing I can do, nothing I can write, that will help heal all of these wounded souls. I know that that is not my job, but I feel it and it hurts.

    • In the midst of this blueness one night, the funniest woman that I know–Mara Kiesling–started talking to me and made me laugh so hard that I could not speak, could only sit in my chair with tears rolling out of my eyes. I don’t think I can explain the joke, which had something to do with a “kidney swap” and winding up with swan kidneys two years in a row. (“The first year, it was funny, but two years in a row!” )   I can tell you it is a good thing to have a friend who can make you laugh. I can show you. I can show you.

    On the last day, in the morning, I met Ruby and Chelsea and Donna Rose for breakfast. The sun was coming up and another day was beginning. We sang swing low Sweet chariot together, and Ruby did the harmony. And I headed for the airport, where a big Delta jet was waiting. Coming for carry me home.

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    First look at the cover for Falcon Quinn II

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    From cover artist Brandon Dorman’s blog, here’s a nearly-complete illustration of the cover of Jenny’s next Falcon Quinn book, coming out in spring of 2011.  The first book in the series, Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, is out right now; follow the link for the all-Falcon-Quinn site at Falconquinn.com. The first book in the series, currently in hardcover, comes out in paper at about the same time as Book 2. Stay tuned here, and at falconquinn.com for more details.

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    JB readings and appearances, fall 2010

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    image603548gI’ve just updated the appearances page to give an initial rundown of readings for this fall. There will be events in Atlanta (Southern Comfort Convention), one at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, two private ones (in New York and Philly, for Colby alumni), two events associated with the Chicago Humanities Festival (one at the festival proper, one at the Belic Institute of Columbia College Chicago) and one at George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival.  Lots more info to come.

    Update, 8/29: Looks like I won’t be able to participate in the Atlanta Queer Lit festival in October– I’d posted this event earlier, when it looked more likely.  If you want to connect with me in Atlanta, looks like the September 11 event , 2 PM, at the Ravina, is the one to go to.  Thanks! JB

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    Christine Daniels: A Love Story New piece on CD in the LA Weekly

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    christine_danielsHere’s another very thoughtful, and lengthy, story published in the L.A. Times Weekly on the sad fate of Christine Daniels. (Christine, nee Mike Penner, was a sportswriter for the L.A. Times who transitioned very publicly at the paper, with the general support of that paper and its readers;  in time, however, she went back to being Mike.  She took her own life last year.)

    This one sees her story as a “tragic love story,” the love story being Christine’s marriage to her wife Lisa.  Thesis here is that the loss of that marriage was too hard for Christine to bear, and that she de-transitioned back to Mike in hopes of salvaging the relationship.  This article would have a lot more teeth, if you ask me, if the author had managed to interview Lisa, the wife in question, although it’s clear enough that she wanted her privacy and wasn’t in the mood to muddy the waters at this late date by speaking publicly.  I respect that decision– living all of this in the bright light of the public eye is pretty hard; it’s one reason Deirdre/Grace has generally not had much interest in speaking publicly about matters that are, almost by definition, private.

    It is clear, though, that a good rule of thumb for trans folks is to know that the changes in your romantic relationships are often the hardest to bear, and that the aches and pains from those changes can outlast transition itself.   I’ve seen this again and again– the euphoria of transition gives way to melancholy of what’s lost–often, the love from the people that we our own selves love most.

    And another good rule of thumb:  all of this, which is hard enough for tough characters, let alone the vulnerable souls that trans folks usually are–is about eight million times harder to deal with in the harsh light of celebrity.   For so many of us,  “get yourself on a talk show”  is such a mandatory element of transition that it feels like one of the standards of care.  But more often than not, that’s exactly the wrong place to be, unless you happen to have nerves of steel, and/or your relationship itself feels safe and protected.

    In short, trans people are well advised to consider the sign that used to hang outside the house of the meanest lady in my home town:  CAVE CANEM.  Beware of Dog.

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    More Gender News from America

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    From Criggo.com, a truly fantastic blog focussing on not-especially-well-edited items in the country’s newspapers.

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    David Bowie and “Gayface.” (revised)

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    The Man Who Sold the World.

    So I posted here a thing I wrote about David Bowie this morning, but now I am thinking twice about.  Originally I was thinking about how much I loved his music, back in the day.  And yet how grumpy i was to learn that he wasn’t really bisexual, at least according to the Wikipedia piece I read– apparently it was all theatre.  I wrote all despondently that it’d have been nice if the thing he’d been pretending to be really was who he was.

    But now, a full six hours later, I begin to suspect I’m full of hooey.  Maybe the reality doesn’t matter.  Maybe what matters is the theatre, and the music.  That opened plenty of doors all by itself. And perhaps we never know who artists “really” are, and it’s naiive to expect them as performers to be–what is the phrase?— their “true selves.”

    Anyway, I’m taking this down so I can think about it a little more.

    Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

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    We are all jerks.

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    August 11– So the inter-sphere is all abuzz with the stories of people quitting their jobs on account of other people acting like assholes. There’s the one about flight attendant Steven Slater, late of JetBlue, who slid down the emergency chute after a passenger got out of his seat and started hauling luggage out of the overhead–eventually bonking Slater on the head with his bag as Slater asked him to return to his seat. Then there’s this one–now apparently a hoax–about a woman who quit her job as a stockbroker after hearing her boss call her a “piece of ass.”

    Both stories–including the faux one–are bringing out rounds of applause for folks “sticking it to the man.” Americans love these kinds of stories. It’s the heart of a whole genre, which you could call the “Take this Job and Shove It” narrative.

    Everyone identifies with the underdog. What no one’s admitting, however, is that they--we--are just as often the boors throwing our luggage around. Or the boss leering at an employee. Or a person whose publicly bad behavior drives other people to hit the emergency chute and slide away.

    Who’s the over-dog?  You are.

    I’ve been on eight jillion plane rides in my life, and on about seven jillion of them, I have seen that guy, the one who just has to pop out of his seat. Or his friend: the woman who just wouldn’t check her giant steamer trunk, and then insists on shoving the thing into a space that just will not contain it. Or, more humbly, the person next to you who takes over the arm rest. Or, on a crowded train, that person who somehow just never got around to getting her stuff out of the (otherwise empty) seat next to hers.

    How about when you’re on a road at night, and some clever soul decides to tailgate you with the bright lights on?

    Or, my local favorite here on our (otherwise quiet) lake in Maine– that guy on his JET-SKI–doing donuts around and around in a circle, engine roaring, rattling windows of cabins for miles around. I guess the important thing is, HE’S having fun.

    Then there are all of you who wear t-shirts with obscenities on them. Hey, guy with the FUCK CLINTON T-shirt, back in 1999? Thanks for the conversation I had to have with my six year old about what “that word means.”

    It’s not news that bad behavior is everywhere. I don’t have any solutions. But I do think that when stories like the two that have rippled through the Inter-Tubes over the last few days come around, it’s worth taking a few moments–as we all hail the pluck of the hero or heroine driven to desparation–to admit that the assholes whose bad behavior has driven these souls to hit the emergency chute?  Are us.

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    Star of the Day: 2/18/71

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    Here’s a totally sweet version of Dark Star, played by those reprehensible has-beens whom I love so, at the Capitol Theatre on February 18, 1971. The tune begins with the 9th track, then moves into Wharf Rat, of all things, played here for the very first time. And then back into Dark Star again in one of the prettiest jams I’ve heard. All of this would be, of course, the exclusive terrain of those who like such things. A really nice moment, though, from a time when music did not suck.

    the embedded player below is so unwieldy I suspect it may be easier to make this work by simply going here and selecting track 9, 10, and 11. But if you want to try your luck below, hit the play arrow, let the first tune start up, and then hit the Forward arrow until you get a good stream on track 2, and then hit Forward again, etc, until at last you hear D.S. come up on track 9. Like I said, more than a little unwieldy, and if you can’t quite get this to work, well, what the heck. It’s back to Lady GaGa for you.

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    Boylans in Yellowstone

    - by Jennifer Boylan

    A flashback to five years ago this summer, when the Boylans travelled to Wyoming.

    July 2005

    IMG_1290Like most Mainers, we draw courage in the face of adversity from the idea of a perfect, invincible summer.  No matter what else befalls us during the year, we know that by mid-June we will be among the most blessed people on Earth.  Which partly explains why, a few days after our children finished up at Belgrade Elementary, our family packed up the car and headed to–Wyoming.

    Wyoming (State motto: Our Bears Think YOU Taste Best!) is a state a few miles south of Kennebunkport and well to the west of New Hampshire.  For the last year or two—while our boys are still young– we’ve been hauling them off to national parks in June, hoping to do as much traveling as a family as we can before adolescence kicks in and they go over “to the dark side.”  It was this philosophy that led us to Arizona last year, to a tour that included not only the Grand Canyon but also the Boot Hill cemetery in Tombstone, the only graveyard I know of that has its own gift shop.

    Wyoming, of course, is the home of Yellowstone National Park, a thermomagmatic anomaly best know for its fumeroles, mudpots, and geysers.  Maine, for its part, has no geysers, although Waterville has an abundance of a thermomagmatic property called “geezers” which erupt, approximately every thirty days, during meetings of the Colby College Faculty.  These geezers go off like clockwork, usually starting off with a simple phrase like, “I’d like to suggest we change some of the language in this amendment” and winding up a few minutes later spewing and covered with delectable froth.  They’re like a mug of cappuccino, only smarter.

    We began our adventure in the Grand Teton National Park. (“Teton” is one of those vague French words which roughly translates as “gazunga.”) After that, we strapped the whole family into a perfectly safe inflatable raft and sailed off of a waterfall in the Snake River.  We all agreed that this was fun, but that it might have been more efficient to simply spray the whole family with a fire hose.

    The next night it was on to Yellowstone, where we stood around with our fellow nature-loving Americans and watched the earth spew out nasty-smelling glup.  We were also lucky enough to spot one of our nation’s endangered species, the Winnebago.  One evening we saw a whole family of Winnebagos grazing by the side of the road.  We would have taken some pictures of them, but we’d been warned by park officials that when they’re taken by surprise, they can charge (usually with a MasterCard or Visa, but sometimes the more dangerous ones have  American Express).

    IMG_0445

    A Group of Giant Cactus

    At Yellowstone Lake we engaged a small watercraft and trolled for trout.  My older boy Zach caught himself a very impressive three-pound fish with the relaxing name of “cut-throat.”  My younger boy, Sean,  sat in the front cabin playing Gameboy, and enjoying the violent motion of the boat, which shook him up like a martini. Later, he said that this was the “high moment” of the vacation.

    Finally, we headed over to Cody, Wyoming, where we endured a rodeo.  Late in the evening, every human younger than twelve years old was invited into the ring for the “calf scramble,” an arcane activity that involved a fifty dollar bill attached with masking tape to the rear end of a very small Holstein.  This animal was then chased by two hundred or so greed-crazed children, as loudspeakers overhead played the theme from “Saturday Night Fever.”

    Our boys returned from the ring empty handed, covered in dirt, discouraged.  “That was no calf-scramble,” Zach muttered. “That was just a mob scene.”

    It was hard to argue with this, and as we drove back to the Bill Cody ranch, we fell into silence, each of us thinking longingly of our home back in Maine.

    We woke up in our own house on the Fourth of July. We all got out of bed, walked down to the lake, and stood there watching the loons.  “I liked America,” said Sean.  “But I’m glad we’re back.”