cover image My Life as a Boy: A Woman's Story

My Life as a Boy: A Woman's Story

Kim Chernin. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $16.95 (230pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-163-8

""If a woman in her thirties turns into a boy, that may mean she's having trouble getting out of the place she's in. She requires the instinctive, wholly natural ruthlessness of a boy."" Chernin (In My Father's Garden) is gripped by this wild ""transformation imperative"" when she falls head over heels with ""Hadamar,"" a beautiful, sophisticated German Jewish woman from a prominent Berkeley family. Restless in her second marriage to a sensitive doctor, and with her only daughter off at college, the dreamy, dependent Chernin submerges herself in an oral history project. While visiting Edith, a woman she has been interviewing about growing up in Europe, Chernin encounters Edith's niece, Hadamar, and senses almost immediately that she will have an intense relationship with this dazzling woman that will end painfully, yet will change her life. (""The ending of it seemed as clearly stated as its moody, contradictory beginning.... I felt that I had lost her even before I told her my name."") The pair begin an exquisitely delicate and indirect courtship that propels Chernin into an incredible shift of sexual orientation. As she grows more confident in her ""boyhood,"" more independent and adventurous, Chernin leaves her husband. Finally, when her romance with Hadamar ends in an unexpected betrayal, she accepts the event as a rite of passage, a doorway to her life among women. Although action is minimal, Chernin's memoir is a sensitive rendering of states of love and states of being, rich with insight into the connection between identity and desire. First serial to Utne Reader. (May)