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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex (original 2002; edition 2002)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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19,857None81 (4.12)716
Authors:Jeffrey Eugenides
Info:New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2002.
Collections:Your library
Tags:GLBTRT, Stonewall Book Awards

Work details

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)

American (200) American literature (144) book club (108) coming of age (177) contemporary (95) contemporary fiction (137) Detroit (383) family (239) fiction (2,468) gender (415) gender identity (158) Greece (321) Greek (117) Greek Americans (108) hermaphrodite (313) hermaphroditism (91) incest (117) intersex (106) literature (138) Michigan (95) novel (369) own (134) Pulitzer (217) Pulitzer Prize (288) read (276) sexuality (198) to-read (332) transgender (115) unread (119) USA (104)
  1. 90
    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)
  2. 71
    A Widow for One Year by John Irving (readerbabe1984)
  3. 71
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (sipthereader)
  4. 61
    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!
  5. 63
    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.
  6. 10
    Labor of Love: The Story of One Man's Extraordinary Pregnancy by Thomas Beatie (infiniteletters)
  7. 10
    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. 21
    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)
  9. 10
    Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City by Marjorie Housepian Dobkin (Anonymous user)
  10. 10
    How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States by Joanne Meyerowitz (jacr)
  11. 11
    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.
  12. 00
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Anonymous user)
  13. 11
    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.
  14. 00
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2810michael)
  15. 11
    Annabel by Kathleen Winter (BookshelfMonstrosity, DawsonOakes)
    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.
    DawsonOakes: 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. 11
    The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both begin with immigrants who come to America at approximately the same time.
  17. 00
    Getting ghost : two young lives and the struggle for the soul of an American city by Luke Bergmann (paulkid)
    paulkid: Get a little history of Detroit from the stories of the people who lived there.
  18. 00
    Sugarless by James Magruder (amberwitch)
    amberwitch: Similar topic and era
  19. 00
    Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières (Booksloth)
  20. 33
    The Human Stain by Philip Roth (sarah-e)
    sarah-e: A character 'passes' in society - dealing with culture and identity.

(see all 28 recommendations)


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» See also 716 mentions

English (443)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (450)
Showing 1-5 of 443 (next | show all)
I stopped reading this book for a while because I got bored with all the family history. I picked it up later and got interested when Cal's story finally started. I really didn't think it was as great as everyone else seems to think. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
This is one of my top "give it to someone" books. The description of the genocide at Smyrna is worth the price, but the voice of the hero/ine is what makes the book. ( )
  auldtwa1 | Mar 14, 2014 |
Amazing prose a beautiful story. I loved all the small details woven together. ( )
  dms02 | Feb 27, 2014 |
Very good book in terms of understanding heredity/genetics as they blend with world history, how people strive to relate to their surroundings and how times change. ( )
  LibStre | Feb 14, 2014 |
Jeffrey Eugenides uses Calliope as his Muse – according to the Greek mythology, she’s the Muse of epic poetry –, as a narrator of his story. He must be a fan of the Greek myths as the novel’s full of allusion to Homer and the Illiad. The narrator eloquently unfold the story behind Calliope’s transformation, like the Chinese Princess Si Ling-Chi, as Eugenides puts it: upon discovering the unraveling of a silkworm cocoon that fell into her teacup, handing its loose end to her maidservant, who in turn took the loose end through the Forbidden City, and into the countryside a half mile away before the cocoon ran out. Eugenides breaks his novel into four parts, and retraces the journey of Cal’s grandparents from Asia Minor to America.

The first part belongs to Desdemona and Lefty, retelling their love story. The second begins with their new life in Detroit, when Lefty was unfairly forced to give up his job in the Ford Motor Co. and went to work for his cousin’s husband, Jimmy Zizmo, to help him smuggle liquors from Canada into the country. Calliope enters the story in the third part, being born to Milton and Tessie. On the day of her birth, her grandfather Lefty had a stroke, and incident that brought Desdemona both sadness and relief, as Eugenides writes ‘Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling.’ The narrator grew up against the backdrop of the 1967 riot that set her father’s first business, the Zebra Room, into blaze, but ironically brought them up from the ruins as the three insurances that he’s been holding finally paid him up enough money to let him start another business and bought a new house in Middlesex, away from what was left of Detroit. In Middlesex, a house without normal doors and lots of windows, the narrator finally begins to learn about herself, and the opposite sex. In that very house she realized that she’s standing between two opposite poles, male and female, the middle of both sexes, and she’s neither. Milton and Tessie eventually discovered Calliope’s condition of being a hermaphrodite in the final part. The narrator enters his own story intermittently, as Cal or Calliope brought the readers in and out of his present-day time, the present being the time he is forty-one and mulling over his recent meeting with a Japanese-American lady in Berlin, the love of his life after the Obscure Object. Eugenides expertly describes Desdemona's love story as she is also the main character who always appears in almost every chapter, as she holds the key of Cal’s physical condition.

As readers go back to the first chapter, some of the story’s key elements that are mentioned in the beginning can be finally put together into a beautiful story of one’s life journey. It’s no surprise that the writer spent 9 years to finish the novel, and eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for his work in 2002. One of Eugenides’ strength comes from his Greek roots – he freely uses the Greek mythology as a tool to weave his story. He doesn’t leave a room for the slightest gap, every chapter is full to the brim with physical and emotional details about his characters, the story settings and many relevant information. Finally, he never allows his readers to take pity of Cal’s condition, rather he takes them to identify with his characters, because in the end, we are humans after all, regardless of our physical conditions. ( )
1 vote pwlifter300 | Feb 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 443 (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
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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.
Haiku summary

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:33 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Calliope's friendship with a classmate and her sense of identity are compromised by the adolescent discovery that she is a hermaphrodite, a situation with roots in her grandparents' desperate struggle for survival in the 1920s.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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