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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex (original 2011; edition 2003)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
24,54757689 (4.11)900
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)
Authors:Jeffrey Eugenides
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2003), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2011)

  1. 101
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (sipthereader, sturlington)
  2. 81
    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. 82
    A Widow for One Year by John Irving (readerbabe1984)
  5. 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.
  6. 51
    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)
  7. 20
    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. 64
    The Human Stain by Philip Roth (sarah-e)
    sarah-e: A character 'passes' in society - dealing with culture and identity.
  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. 10
    The Hours by Michael Cunningham (sturlington)
  12. 10
    The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit by Thomas J. Sugrue (jacr)
    jacr: A scholarly discussion of the decline of Detroit and its race riots. People who liked Eugenides's fictional account of Detroit might be interested in this historical version.
  13. 32
    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. 32
    The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both begin with immigrants who come to America at approximately the same time.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 11
    Labor of Love: The Story of One Man's Extraordinary Pregnancy by Thomas Beatie (infiniteletters)
  18. 00
    Sugarless by James Magruder (amberwitch)
    amberwitch: Similar topic and era
  19. 23
    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)
  20. 01
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2810michael)

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» See also 900 mentions

English (561)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (575)
Showing 1-5 of 561 (next | show all)
You could call this a different kind of coming-of-age novel. Or a historical novel. Or whatever Mendel's Dwarf is called. Curiously, my copy of Mendel's Dwarf was classified as a "romance" by the library it came from. I don't think this is the right category, although both books do involve romance.

Calliope Helen Stephanides was born twice, you'll read in the first line of the book. Cally was a girl until age fourteen, when she learned that in fact she was born with a condition sometimes called pseudohermaphroditism. She was born with the XY chromosome, identifying her as a male, but she had elements of both sexes. How does this happen? Eugenides is happy to tell us, in this case, that it was a rare genetic disorder passed on down from Cally-Cal's grandparents. They were brother and sister and carried the gene(s) for this condition.

We get to meet Cal's grandparents first, when they were young and lived in a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus, not far from the old city of Smyrna. In 1922, after the end of the First World War, when the area was occupied by the Greeks, it was invaded by the Turkish army. Greeks and Armenians in Smyrna died in what became known as The Great Fire of Smyrna. Desdemona and Lefty, Cal's grandparents, barely escaped. They ended up in the U.S., in Detroit, living with relatives.

It is not uncommon in these cultures for cousins to marry and have children. Sister and brother, not so much. When Desdemona learned that there is a good reason for this ban, she feared what her offspring might become.

We thus get to know her children as well. And finally, their children.

Cal's story is interwoven with the tales of his antecedents and their lives. Their stories are laced with a healthy dose of history. And so it is that while the book is 529 pages long (paperback edition) the story of Cally-Cal is actually pretty light.

I do find it interesting when actual historical events are included in good novels, particularly when those events are not well-known. I am less interested in lives set in a general historical period, where a lot of guesswork goes on. So I found the lives of the grandparents and their silk "farm" and the Great Fire, and the lives of their children in the U.S., interesting and informative. But my curse is that I want so much from characters, and I felt that while there certainly are well-rounded characters there are just so many of them!

It's an absorbing book, worth reading for the atmosphere and events, the sense of history, and for the information on "hermaphrodites", however they are called. It leaves open where one would go from here, having been both female and male. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Fascinating, compelling book. Great for a book group. ( )
  baruthcook | Aug 26, 2020 |
The veracity in the details is amazing; other writers try for this but often fail. Even knowing better, I often wondered if the story might be true. ( )
  CatherineMachineGun | Jul 31, 2020 |
Boring generational saga told from the perspective of a pointlessly omniscient and ridiculously self-important narrator whose salacious telling of the story is a slap in the face of actual intersex people.

When will straight cis white men stop hurting everyone else by laying claim to and then mangling everyone else's stories? Eugenides seem to think, like so many vanilla straight cis white men do, that writing sleazily about the exotic/demonised Other is a good way to get awards - and hey, he was right!

Boy, this book made me mad.

Two stars because it was, after all, well written. Grrrr. ( )
  nandiniseshadri | Jul 12, 2020 |
A beautiful yet emotionally trying novel that serves as more proof that the world must recognize more than two genders. ( )
  NicoleGable | Jul 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 561 (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 (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugenides, Jeffreyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bagnoli, KatiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome 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.
He looked up at me with no expression, blinking. That was Chapter Eleven's way. Everything went on in him internally. Inside his braincase sensations were being reviewed, evaluated, before any reaction was given. I was used to this, of course...He was quiet, blinking. There was the usual lag time while he thought.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

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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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