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At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son…

At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces

by Mary Collins

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Mary and Donald Collins each tell their side of the story of what happens when a person wants/needs to transition gender from female to male. Each has a difficult story to tell of how the decision impacted their lives and how they finally managed to make peace with each other and their family. A must read for anyone who has a relationship with a "trans" person, family member or friend.
  GramRaye | May 16, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The concept for At the Broken Places is unique. Mother and son tell a collaborative story of Donald Collins's transition from daughter to son & all of the emotional upheaval they endured together (and apart) along the way. Because of their opposing viewpoints it must have been a very difficult time for both of them. This definitely make At the Broken Places a more dynamic story.
As an aside, it was interesting to read between the lines and hear what wasn't being said. Mary indicated names are powerful and matter a great deal when she explained that at sixteen her daughter was "J" and referred to as She. When "J" insisted on being called Donald her daughter was then referred to as He. Her son. The death of a name ushered in the death of a daughter. It is further revealed Mary held some resentment over the name "Donald Oliver" because it single-handedly wiped out memorializing her father ("J's" shared his initials).

At the Broken Places could serve a wide audience: people facing similar situations; people who want to educate themselves; even people in positions of authority charged with changing the status quo. ( )
  SeriousGrace | May 15, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A MUST HAVE in any GLBTQ, school, or counselor's library, At the Broken Places is much more than informative. At the Broken Places; subtitled A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces; is a true dialog between Mary Collins, a single mother losing her beloved daughter, and Donald Collins almost losing his family as he searches to become who he was meant to be.

Mary and Donald are able to renew their relationship, but only through much pain relived as they collaborated on this book. The resulting book allows emotion to flow through and pain to be expressed.

The ongoing theme throughout the book is the pain of being shut-out or shut-down.

Being trans is misunderstood by many people, including by transsexuals. Transsexuality does not need to be binary, yet it is often assumed to be translated as transitioning from male to female or female to male. Anyone who is not on such a path gets shut out of support groups and medical help. I did not know this, and I assume that most counselors share that knowledge.

Parents are supposed to offer “unconditional love and support” without space to grieve the loss of the girl or boy they have loved for decades. Or if you mention fears for the youth or adult child due to a history of violence against transgender people or fear the side effects of the treatments or medication you are shut down as setting up barriers and/or being homophobic.

The difficulty seems to be a rigid view of sexuality as binary combined with a US cultural imperative to support the individual rather than the community or family. When you view things as a binary, you are stuck in dichotomies. One side must be wrong in order for the other side to be right. Individuals are supported as the myth of rugged individuality still permeates our culture. The neglected family units cause the difficulties for young people attempting to transition to mount out of control. The family, especially protective parents, could shift their focus from having to self-educate with no resources, to crashing through the “gateways” the medical and governmental cultures set in their way. The parents have the experience to do so if they are allowed to express themselves and get true information about the processes. Having a child turn 16 does not stop a mother from caring about her child and the child should be encouraged to let the parent be involved, even if the parent is no longer in control.

I get the feeling that the suicide rate might go down if youths were not encouraged to take control of their lives without support the family could give. But the suicide and violent death rates are horrendous, so any help would be good. ( )
  Bidwell-Glaze | May 13, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for my honest review of it.

At the Broken Places is a dual, mother-son memoir written by and about Mary Collins and her transgender son, Donald Collins. The dual-memoir framework of the story provided a unique viewpoint into the challenges faced by both Donald and Mary, as Donald navigated his coming out as transgender.

Donald's essays are at times heart-wrenching, but always very human, grounded, and engaging. He built a connection to me, the reader, and I was eager to continue learning about him and his journey. Mary's essays, however, left me feeling that she hasn't yet put enough distance between herself and the situations she is writing about to truly reflect upon them. She comes off as perpetually angry and continually rehashes her same gripes and feelings of victimization without adding any new information or insights. This, combined with the fact that her voice and perspective take up more space (physically and emotionally) within the book than her son's, left me wishing that Donald, rather than his mother, was the "driver" of the project or that the book was written only from Donald's perspective.

The interviews by Mary and Donald at the end of the book offer perspectives of other parents and children navigating similar situations to their own. Mary's interviews are lightly edited and, therefore, often difficult to follow; her interviews feel hasty and slap-dash, as if they are just copy-and-pasted from emails she received. Donald's interviews, however, are beautifully and empathetically written, with Donald taking extra care to treat his interviewees with respect and dignity and allow them space to tell their own stories in their own voices, while also providing context when necessary.

In the end, it was an interesting, if unbalanced, read offering a unique perspective on a timely topic. If Donald were to eventually write a memoir all his own or a book of interviews with other members in the trans community (or the wider LGBT community), I would eagerly read his book. ( )
  SaraNoH | May 10, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received a free copy of this book from Early Reviewers give-away. The subject matter was very interesting and obviously very relevant today. I liked reading the book in the beginning, but somewhere about halfway through it turned into hard work to keep on going, because it seemed to me that the writing became "drier and drier". It was just a continuous repeat of the previous chapters, with maybe a few "new" sentences put in. ( )
  yukon92 | May 9, 2017 |
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We have few positive avenues for honest conversation.  Everyone digs in with hard-and-fast points of view.  We demonize each other.
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