cover image I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition

I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition

Lucy Sante. Penguin Press, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-49376-2

In this miraculous memoir, New York Review of Books critic Sante (Nineteen Reservoirs) recounts the story of her life in light of her gender transition at age 66. After passing a few photos through FaceApp’s gender swapping feature in early 2021, Sante recognized herself as the person she’d always been: a woman. This epiphany (or “egg cracking”) unleashed a flood of revelations, which Sante unpacks in parallel timelines—one covering her younger years, the other focusing on the days and months after her FaceApp-facilitated breakthrough. In the former sections, Sante describes her experiences as a child immigrating to the U.S. from Belgium in the 1960s, as a young adult partying and making friends in 1970s and ’80s New York City, and as a cultural critic. In the latter timeline, she recounts coming out to friends, colleagues, and the public, and depicts the strain her transition put on her relationship with her partner, Mimi, as she struggled through feelings of envy and shame. With piercing insight and a formidable command of language, Sante molds the material into a trenchant self-portrait that’s equal parts humorous (she wryly gives her coming-out email the subject line “A Bombshell”) and hard-nosed. This is a major achievement. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary. (Feb.)