Book for September: Middlesex; Jeffrey Eugenides.
I got this off a ‘books to read’ list of some kind, saved on my phone, and later transferred to my computer, so I don’t know exactly how long it was waiting, other than a good long while.
Calliope Stephanides was born as a girl, mostly due to some inattentive physical examinations. She looked like a girl, and she thought she was a girl–but she wasn’t, not quite. Now going by a nickname, Cal tells the story of her childhood, going back two generations of the Stephanides family, following the passing of the traits that made Cal unique.
Going back and forth from the far past to Cal’s present, the book interweaves stories of love and loss, family ties and inheritance, dangerous secrets, and most of all, what makes up an identity. Are you what people believe you are, or is there something intrinsic to a person, even if unknown, which will rise to the surface eventually? The Stephanides family has plenty of secrets, hidden shame, but also a great deal of love.
It can be hard to fit in, even without being different from most people, and Cal isn’t the only one who feels out of place–and that feeling is one that any reader can relate to, I think. There’s something a little sad about the family, in people who only want to be loved, but often fall short of their hopes, or are disappointed the those they most relied on. Silence leads to more silence, secrets and shame piling up–but there’s always a revelation at the end of a secret, and knowing can lead to understanding and acceptance. After all, we’re all a little strange, aren’t we? All we need is someone who loves us anyway.