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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex (2002)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
20,78849470 (4.12)772
  1. 101
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (sipthereader)
  2. 80
    Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (_debbie_)
    _debbie_: Both are (at least partially) historical novels with strong themes of identity, coming of age, and going against the mainstream to stay true to what you feel is right. Although one is set in Victorian England and the other isn't, they both have that same feel of rich language and descriptive place.… (more)
  3. 81
    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Othemts)
    Othemts: Multi-generational eccentric families, entrepreneurship, incest, the average made epic - yep, these books have it all!
  4. 92
    A Widow for One Year by John Irving (readerbabe1984)
  5. 61
    As Nature Made Him by John Colapinto (librorumamans, librorumamans)
    librorumamans: The connection of this book to Middlesex is Eugenides' character, Dr Luce, who appears to be modelled on Dr John Money of Johns Hopkins University. As Nature Made Him is a non-fiction account of Money's experimental (and unsuccessful) sex reassignment of David Reimer, whose botched infant circumcision left him genitally mutilated. Both books compellingly look at the complexity of gender identity.… (more)
  6. 83
    The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: share the same exquisite sense of setting: boring, but not terrible suburban America, second half of last century.
  7. 30
    Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both are very American stories, about families in the 20th century, fighting wars, starting businesses, raising families, and both feature a teenage protagonist.
  8. 41
    The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both begin with immigrants who come to America at approximately the same time.
  9. 74
    The Human Stain by Philip Roth (sarah-e)
    sarah-e: A character 'passes' in society - dealing with culture and identity.
  10. 30
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Anonymous user)
  11. 20
    How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States by Joanne Meyerowitz (jacr)
  12. 31
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (someproseandcons)
    someproseandcons: Both books are family and community sagas centered around secrets, and both books are carried by a strong and compelling voice.
  13. 20
    Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City by Marjorie Housepian Dobkin (Anonymous user)
  14. 10
    Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières (Booksloth)
  15. 21
    Annabel by Kathleen Winter (BookshelfMonstrosity, Booktrovert)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Annabel follows the life of a hermaphrodite who was not masculine enough to please his father. The novel explores themes of family relations, gender roles, and sexual identity similar to those in Middlesex.
    Booktrovert: While reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Annabel is a compelling and accomplished debut novel about one person’s struggle to discover the truth in a culture that shuns contradiction. Annabel offers some hard themes for readers. It is the story of an intersex child born in a remote coastal Labrador village in 1968. Primarily, I feel, Winter has written an homage to self-determination and self-preservation. An intersex child is born with atypical reproductive anatomy – both male and female anatomy are present. Advocates for intersex infants argue against surgical alterations of gentalia and reproductive organs being performed in order to accommodate societal expectations of what it means to be male or female in the world. This choice forms the centre of Winter’s novel.… (more)
  16. 22
    Intersex: A Perilous Difference by Morgan Holmes (boat-song)
    boat-song: Contains an amazing chapter on Eugenides and Middlesex, and for those interested in gender, a must read.
  17. 11
    Labor of Love: The Story of One Man's Extraordinary Pregnancy by Thomas Beatie (infiniteletters)
  18. 00
    All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well by Tod Wodicka (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  19. 11
    Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: The destiny of an individual and a family bound up with that of a particular time and place.
  20. 00
    Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes by T Cooper (susanbooks)

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Showing 1-5 of 481 (next | show all)
I listened to this book (unabridged) and was so taken by the language that I actually want to get the book to see the words. It is a wonderful story and I love the cultural and historical background provided by the author. The point of view and chronology gets a little twisted at times, but perhaps that is because I was listening and not seeing. I wonder if the book uses a different font or something when the narrative moves from present to past to the long ago past and then back again??? And how does the narrator know the motivations and secret desires of his grandparents? I have never read a book on this subject before. I also loved the play on the title - from a location to a biological condition! Is that a spoiler? ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
Very nice, occasionally flowery, but I liked his wordplay and I felt like I got to know the author. ( )
  jessicaofthebees | Aug 15, 2015 |
Very nice, occasionally flowery, but I liked his wordplay and I felt like I got to know the author. ( )
  valerietheblonde | Aug 5, 2015 |
Middlesex is beautifully written. Taken only as a love letter to Detroit, it might be a beautiful and compelling tale. But I found Middlesex highly problematic.

There are many acceptable ways to incorporate a gender minority person into a book. A book about a gender minority person's life and struggles can be good -- exposure to that side of life for readers. A book with a gender minority person as an ancillary character whose status is incidental can be good -- normalizing that experience. But Middlesex falls into this uncomfortable middle ground where Cal's intersex status feels exploitative. This isn't a book about being intersex. It's a book about growing up in a Greek immigrant family in a changing Detroit. Being intersex is relegated to a B plot as though the book needed some salacious, voyeuristic element to make it sellable and exciting. It feels exploitative.

The ending of the book is particularly problematic. Cal transitions from female-presenting to male-presenting for no apparent reason, and no reason is explained. Intersex is conflated with trans, which is problematic. Cal never presents any gender confusion or male identity previous to the end. Rather, there is this sort of attitude underlying the end of the book as though of course an intersex person would transition to become a man, since male is default. For an author with a history of misogyny (see The Virgin Suicides, or honestly, don't), this is particularly perturbing because it is as though a gender transition is an assumption or an oversight for him.

A lot of people loved this book, including people whose taste in literature I trust. But I cannot in good faith recommend it. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Aug 3, 2015 |
this is wonderfully written, first and foremost. i'm not entirely satisfied with the story - it ends without exploring what i would think is one of the more intriguing things to delve into (how people evolve and handle that evolution in others; transition periods are what people write about because they come with so many emotions and issues and change is such a catalyst for so many things, and he stops his story at the transition stage here) - but did find the family history interesting and surprisingly easy to read about.

i don't know enough about what it means to be intersex to be able to critique his handling of this, so i'll just say that i'm glad that a popular mainstream book deals with it and will note my competing discomfort in having cis people tell the stories of "other" when it's one of the only voices out there. still, it seemed to be handled well (from my cis perspective) and perhaps even realistically, i don't know. i did find it surprising that calliope showed no inclination or inkling whatsoever that she felt masculine or had masculine tendencies so i wouldn't have expected calliope to become cal. but this period of self exploration is entirely glossed over in the book so it's hard to know. so i'll also say that i could overlook this even though it felt odd to me that this was the option chosen, but it felt kind of like eugenides was thinking that the only explanation for calliope to fall in love with a woman was that she was actually a man. so i was a little uncomfortable with this aspect of the story as well, but attributed it more to my lack of knowledge of being intersex than to the book, which may or may not be the reality of it. (if i attribute this stuff to him and not to my nascent knowledge, this book would get less stars, in spite of the lovely writing.)

i enjoyed the read, even while finding it a little slow going, and very much enjoyed the language. i wanted an explanation for chapter eleven's name from the beginning but that's a minor quibble. i didn't like the house being named middlesex, that just seemed a little too much for me, as was the description (not the fact of) milton's death. by "too much" i guess i mean that it doesn't quite fit in with the way he wrote everything else..

"We were ready to accept the Negroes. We weren't prejudiced against them. We wanted to include them in our society if they would only act normal!"

"'Where are they going to live if they burn down their own neighborhood?' Only Aunt Zo seemed to sympathize: 'I don't know. If I was walking down the street and there was a mink coat just sitting there, I might take it.' 'Zoe!' Father Mike was shocked. 'That's stealing!' 'Oh, what isn't, when you come right down to it. This whole country's stolen.'" ( )
  elisa.saphier | Jul 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 481 (next | show all)
This novel repeats the stand-out achievements of The Virgin Suicides: an ability to describe the horrible in a comic voice, an unusual form of narration and an eye for bizarre detail.
added by SqueakyChu | editGuardian, Mark Lawson (Oct 5, 2002)
Eugenides does such a superb job of capturing the ironies and trade-offs of assimilation that Calliope's evolution into Cal doesn't feel sudden at all, but more like a transformation we've been through ourselves.
Some of this footloose book is charming. Most of it is middling.
added by Shortride | editTime, Richard Lacayo (Sep 23, 2002)
His narrator is a soul who inhabits a liminal realm, a creature able to bridge the divisions that plague humanity, endowed with ''the ability to communicate between the genders, to see not with the monovision of one sex but in the stereoscope of both.'' That utopian reach makes ''Middlesex'' deliriously American; the novel's patron saint is Walt Whitman, and it has some of the shagginess of that poet's verse to go along with the exuberance. But mostly it is a colossal act of curiosity, of imagination and of love.
''Middlesex'' is a novel about roots and rootlessness. (The middle-sex, middle-ethnic, middle-American DNA twists are what move Cal to Berlin; the author now lives there too.) But the writing itself is also about mixing things up, grafting flights of descriptive fancy with hunks of conversational dialogue, pausing briefly to sketch passing characters or explain a bit of a bygone world.

''The Virgin Suicides'' is all of a piece, contained within the boundaries of one neighborhood; ''Middlesex'' -- a strange Scheherazade of a book -- is all in pieces, as all big family stories are, bursting the boundaries of logic.

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugenides, Jeffreyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nilsson, Hans-JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tabori, KristofferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Yama, who comes from a different gene pool entirely
First words
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
"Don't you think it would have been easier just to stay the way you were?"
I lifted my face and looked into my mother's eyes. And I told her: "This is the way I was."
The textbook publishers would make sure to cover my face. The black box: a fig leaf in reverse, concealing identity while leaving shame exposed.
Historical fact: people stopped being human in 1913. That was the year Henry Ford put his cars on rollers and made his workers adopt the speed of the assembly line. At first, the workers rebelled. They quit in droves, unable to accustom their bodies to the new pace of the age. Since then, adaptation has been passed down: we've all inherited it to some degree, so that we plug right into joysticks and remotes, to repetitive motions of a hundred kinds.

But in 1922 it was still a new thing to be a machine.
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Book description
Three generations of a Greek American family find themselves plagued by a mutant gene which causes bizarre side effects in the family's teenage girls.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312427735, Paperback)

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time." The odd but utterly believable story of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as Calliope, is at the tender heart of this long-awaited second novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, whose elegant and haunting 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, remains one of the finest first novels of recent memory.

Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin. Eugenides's command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie's shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor:

Emotions, in my experience aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." … I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." ... I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever.

When you get to the end of this splendorous book, when you suddenly realize that after hundreds of pages you have only a few more left to turn over, you'll experience a quick pang of regret knowing that your time with Cal is coming to a close, and you may even resist finishing it--putting it aside for an hour or two, or maybe overnight--just so that this wondrous, magical novel might never end. --Brad Thomas Parsons

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:52 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them--along with Callie's failure to develop--leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.… (more)

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