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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex (original 2002; edition 2002)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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20,74849070 (4.12)770
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)

Recently added bykazikas, private library, ValeryFrolov, EtonicQuasar, arpitzain
  1. 101
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (sipthereader)
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    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)
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  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
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    ainsleytewce: Both begin with immigrants who come to America at approximately the same time.
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    sarah-e: A character 'passes' in society - dealing with culture and identity.
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  12. 31
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    someproseandcons: Both books are family and community sagas centered around secrets, and both books are carried by a strong and compelling voice.
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    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
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Showing 1-5 of 477 (next | show all)
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 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 |
If there's a book that I would love to recommend to someone, it would be this. Even though I've finished it, I still feel an emotional attachment to the characters, and to the story, and the message. It's heart wrenching at times, and full of levity at other times. Being a story about a Greek family, it has many elements of a traditional Greek story...although whether you classify it as a tragedy, comedy, or romance is up to you. It's kind of all three...and kind of none.

Narration: There's so much to say about the narration of this book. In a sense, it really reminded me of [b:One Hundred Years of Solitude|320|One Hundred Years of Solitude|Gabriel García Márquez|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255666245s/320.jpg|3295655] in it's epic scope. It covers three different generations during the 20th century, starting halfway across the world and ending in the home on Middlesex. And because of that, it's almost like reading a pseudo history book. Seriously: "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."

The point of view of the story is told from the perspective of Cal/Callie, now a middle-aged man, recounting the history of his grandparents and parents, and finally his life growing up as a girl. I really liked the personal nature of this narration, as Cal is certainly aware of the reader. He sometimes breaks the legendary 'fourth wall' by talking to the reader directly. There are also instances where he plays with time: "I give you now the entire pregnancy in time lapses." It's almost like watching a film...it's just really that well written. Not to mention all the allusions to this being a Greek play: "Silently Tessie inserted the links, tragedy in one sleeve, comedy in the other." The symbolism is very strong in scenes like this, and allows the reader to understand what's going on by telling them directly. No need for hidden symbols.

"Every Greek drama needs a dues ex machina."

Characters: The true essence of the story is in the characters. It's not only in the actions that each person does, but in the repetition of mistakes that these generations of a family does: "We Greeks get married in circles, to impress upon ourselves the essential matrimonial facts: that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back where you began." I find a lot of similarities here with One Hundred Years of Solitude...and if you haven't read either books, you should start now!

Besides repetition, this is also about the struggles that these characters went through. Whether it was coming to America and assimilating to this new culture, or growing up in the 60s and trying to break away from this old culture, it's there. And all throughout, there's the struggle of Cal himself: "This once-divided city reminds me of myself. My struggle for unification, for Einheit. Coming from a city still cut in half by racial hatred, I feel hopeful here in Berlin." As the drama intensifies and leads to the discovery of Cal's condition, the family ultimately realizes that the only way to return back to 'normal' is to 'fix' her:

"'I'm sick of this hotel. When can we go home?'
'Soon as you're better,' Milton said.
...But I couldn't sleep. I kept thinking about that word: 'better.'"

[a:Jeffrey Eugenides|1467|Jeffrey Eugenides|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1256022147p2/1467.jpg] may not be the first person to do this, but he has definitely opened up a new generation of readers to the strive for equality in not only Queer culture, but even other minority cultures that some just don't even think exists. The characters feel real, and they get under your skin (in a good way). The message is clear, and it's loud and proud.

Anyway, I'd say there's no better book to read than this out of all the ones I've read so far this year. Go take a look. I'm sure you'll love it. ( )
  jms001 | Jun 14, 2015 |
This was a great novel, one that restored my faith in myself in a manner of speaking as I have also recently read The Goldfinch, and was wondering what had made it worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. Things are little bit more clear in this case. I loved the history of the family, and oh goodness, the plot twists were a hoot! It did leave me wanting more though - I would have been interested to learn more of Cal's journey from the time of his father's passing to the present. Cal's narration was unique and the characters were people you could care about. Oh damn, I need to stop, I am starting to see comparisons to The Goldfinch, a young man coming of age with a secret....taking a journey...yikes! ( )
  MaureenCean | Jun 14, 2015 |
A complex family saga and coming-of-age story narrated by Cal Stephanide, who traces his family history (sometimes relating events omnisciently he could not possibly know) as a way to understand himself. He describes growing up as a girl, Callie, and his life-altering discovery as a teenager that he is intersex, at which point Cal lives the rest of his life as a man.

Fascinating on many levels and deeply human, I loved the way the story described each of these family members with all their mistakes and flaws — from incest to racism and other stuff in between. Maybe it’s because Cal is the narrator rather than some disconnected third party, but the love Cal has for his family shines through, providing a sense of compassion and empathy. It allows for characters to be seen as sympathetic, even at their worst. It’s a book I’d want to read and absorb again.

Also, the audiobook is excellent with Kristoffer Tabori giving a powerful reading that makes Cal’s passions come alive. ( )
  andreablythe | May 14, 2015 |
Couldn't put it down. ( )
  thiscatsabroad | May 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 477 (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.

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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)

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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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