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At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son…
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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.
I am a cis-female and mother of a straight daughter and gay son. I've read and watched quite a few pieces about transgenderism, including the Caitlyn Jenner series. Given all of this understanding, however, I found it very difficult to not judge Mary Collins - not for mourning the loss of her daughter, which I could identify with, but for her refusal to support Donald's surgery. In fact, they did not speak for six months, a time which must have been horrendously difficult for him. Mary is still angry, and defensive, and this pervaded the book.

Many reviewers pointed out how courageous it was of the Collins' to write this book. I guess that's true, but to me the purpose was less to help others understand than to work through their damaged relationship. The same book, written post joint therapy, would have been less an airing of grievances and more helpful.

And so I found Donald's chapters much more sympathetic, though a little academic at times. I would have liked to hear more about how he came to realize "she" was really a "he." I think this would have helped people who are less accepting of the reality of these feelings.

A small point: I found the "Word Bank" boxes superfluous and almost condescending. ( )
  bobbieharv | Apr 11, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I read this book because I still feel uncomfortable with the idea of a trans individual, and I wanted to educate myself more about this issue. After reading this book, my hope is that the idea of transgender becomes more mainstream, kind of as being gay is now.

I think it took a great deal of courage for both mom and son (formerly daughter) to write this book. It did exactly what I wanted which was to explain the emotional turmoil of this issue and steps that can be taken to overcome it. I found this book both deeply sad and yet deeply empowering. For me as a mom, I identified with Mary who lost her precious little girl when she transitioned into a he. I can't imagine having to lose my own little girl with her pretty bows and pink, ruffled clothes (which my own daughter tired of as soon as she grew old enough to see me stereotyping her in clothing!). On the other hand, I felt so sorry for Donald who only wanted to be himself and to be treated with dignity for the person that he knew himself to be. I am truly impressed that mom and son were able to work together on this book and hope that doing so brought them closer together (which both say it did).

I also liked the parts of the book that dealt with other families of trans children. Each family must deal with this issue in its own way, but I liked that one of the groups was set up to include parents who also have problems with this issue, although not the physical issues that their children do.

This is a brave book and a great resource for any family undergoing this issue or for someone like me who is trying to learn to be more accepting of individuals in all their similarities and differences. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Apr 6, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a well written, candid, and heartfelt memoir written in alternating voices of mother and transgender son that describes the emotional journey as the one time daughter changes name and body in order to live his life as a male.

While the teen can't wait to take hormones, change his name, and have surgeries to make his appearance match what he believes to be his true self, his mother, understandably, can't keep up. To her, the loss is huge, and she is given no time to grieve for the daughter she is losing bit by bit. Because she hesitates, she feels she is labeled by the LGBTQ community as backward and insensitive to her child's needs. Like many young adults, the son impatient, and cannot grasp the enormous emotional challenge this is for mom. He feels he is on the brink of finally becoming his authentic self and, at first, sees everyone who is not one hundred percent supportive as being against him.

This series of essays show how they were able to reach a middle ground and retain their love and respect for each other throughout the transition. I would recommend this book to other families beginning this journey and believe it has a place on reading lists for transgender studies. ( )
1 vote Marlane | Mar 31, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Change for most people is a difficult thing, but the changes discussed in this book are particularly stressful for all involved despite the fact that some of these changes are for the better. In this book Mary is very honest about her mixed feelings surrounding her daughter’s decision to transition into a man. This decision was reached in her child’s senior year of high school. While Donald was eager to make this change, for Mary it was a more difficult one. She felt as if she were losing the daughter she raised as a single parent. Her grief was intense. Making this grief even worse was Donald’s refusal to truly understand her grief, even insisting childhood photos had to be put away. For Donald he was eager for everyone to adjust to this new reality. For some this was an easier adjustment, for others it was more difficult. One can understand how horrible it must have been for Donald to be trapped inside the body of someone he was not, and what a relief it must have been to finally have both his body and mind match the same person. However, love did conquer all here. Mary was able to rewrite her timeline of motherhood in her mind so that she had a daughter from birth until 17, then she had a son. Donald learned to be more patient and tolerant of what his mother went through adjusting to his decision. They then went on to write this incredible book. Also included in this book are interviews with other people who traveled a similar path although each is a unique one. The bottom line is that no matter what, we are all more alike than different, and each of us deserves the chance to be happy. ( )
  Susan.Macura | Mar 29, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"I hope someone, somewhere, can find it in a library - or put it in theirs - and feel that much less alone."

I received this book through the LibraryThing early reviewers program.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and feel that it is extremely important. It offers much needed perspective, from both trans people and their families, when coming out. I feel that this book gives a much deeper understanding of transgender life to those who read it.

I would definitely recommend this book to other transgender people and to the families of those who have come out as trans. It discusses what transgender people go through in order to understand and accept themselves, and to come out. It also offers up reasons why parents may feel scared at first, and allows for both sides to understand each other better and use this understanding to work together.

As a transgender individual, I found that this book gave me a new perspective on coming out and other issues. It made me feel less alone and was a much needed book for me. ( )
1 vote RavenNight | Mar 29, 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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