Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

June Books 2) Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

I was rather expecting this to be a sober and gruelling tale of conflicted sexual identity. I was almost completely wrong. Middlesex is largely an exuberant tale of growing up as a girl in a Greek-American family. The first delight is the complex background of her grandparents, brother and sister who escape from the inferno of Smyrna in 1922 and marry each other in a secretly incestuous union. Then there is a tough but engaging depiction of the Greek-American community of Grosse Pointe and Detroit, against the background of mid-century America: the Depression, the war, the riots of the 1960s, and the moment of truth in the 1970s when Chekhov's gun goes off, and Cal chooses to be male after fourteen years of being a girl.

Rather as Romeo and Juliet works partly because we are told up front by the Chorus that the title characters are going to die, Middlesex is absolutely clear about what is going to happen, and its charm is the clarity with which it is all laid out. I have absolutely no idea how relevant or true to life it is for readers who have themselves grappled with gender identification issues (and would be very interested to hear reactions from such quarters); it certainly raised my consciousness while also entertaining me greatly. Strongly recommended.
Tags: bookblog 2009, pulitzer, sex and sexuality
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