cover image My Brother My Sister: 
Story of a Transformation

My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation

Molly Haskell. Viking, $26.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-670-02552-7

When noted feminist film critic Haskell’s “utterly normal” brother, Chevey, confesses his long-held desire to become a woman, Haskell sets out on a scholarly quest to understand her brother’s path to becoming Ellen in this intimate memoir. Approaching his 60s, following two marriages to women, Chevey simply states that he is going to “change.” Given Haskell’s background, it is not surprising she first tackles his transsexuality with academic rigor: what the book occasionally lacks in description, it compensates for in captivating, well-synthesized research, citing works from fields as varied as mythology, neuroscience, and religion. Haskell successfully employs these voices to aid her understanding of her brother’s surprising “second chance narrative.” Her personal tale of coming to terms with this surprise announcement and its aftermath shines through the research and references, becoming the memoir’s strongest thread. Coming from a well-to-do, conservative family in Richmond, Va., Haskell felt simultaneous grief for the brother she lost and acceptance of the sister she gained in a story of identity and the impossibility of fully knowing another person, even those closest to us. “You discover you don’t know the person you thought you knew,” an analyst tells Haskell. As the conversation surrounding the unknowns of what causes transgender continues, this work makes a significant contribution to its literature. (Sept.)