cover image I’m Looking Through You

I’m Looking Through You

Jennifer Finney Boylan, . . Broadway, $23.95 (270pp) ISBN 978-0-7679-2174-9

Boylan, an English professor, novelist and memoirist (She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders ), tells of growing up in a haunted house in Pennsylvania, where phantom footfalls and spectral mists were practically commonplace. This was a fitting-enough setting for young Boylan, then a boy who longed to become a girl. “Back then I knew very little for certain about whatever it was that afflicted me,” she writes. “[I]n order to survive, I’d have to become something like a ghost myself, and keep the nature of my true self hidden.” In 2006, years after her sex change, Boylan returned to her childhood home with a band of local ghostbusters as she struggled to reconcile with her past as James Boylan, as well as her memories of family members she’d loved and lost there. This memoir is better suited for those interested in broader human truths than in fact (a disclaimer in the author’s note explains that she’s taken liberties in service of the story); readers in the former category are in for a treat. Boylan writes with a measured comedic timing and a light touch, affecting a pitch-perfect balance between sorrow, skepticism and humor. In spite of the singularity of Boylan’s circumstance, the coming-of-age story has far-reaching resonance: estrangement in one’s own home, alienation in one’s own skin and the curious ways that men and women come to know themselves and one another. (Jan.)