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Middlesex (2002)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
25,60860695 (4.11)919
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)
  1. 102
    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. 93
    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. 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. 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, JooniperD)
    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.
    JooniperD: 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 919 mentions

English (590)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  Finnish (1)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (605)
Showing 1-5 of 590 (next | show all)
Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (2003)
  sharibillops | May 20, 2022 |
This book is not about what you think it's about. It's the story of a family. The first half is mostly about Desdemona and Lefty migrating to America and starting a new life.

If you're in this to read about a man who was born a girl, the struggles of gender identity, ostracization, bullying, sexual development... This is not the book you're looking for. It's very disappointing in that area. You wanted to see real, authentic LGBTQIA feelings? Too bad; this is fiction. I thought it was an autobiography when I started it...

But the writing style makes up for that. Cal is a beautiful writer. I'm not usually a fan of descriptions -get on with the story, God damn it!- but he is a master of them. He could write about a bare wall and I'd enjoy it. (He didn't.)

Still, I can't rate this book. 4 stars if I hadn't been looking for something else; the ending was ridiculous. 2 stars because I feel like largely ignoring the intersex struggle was insulting. Not 3 stars.
  brutalstirfry | May 6, 2022 |
Great in parts, had difficulty reading it in any great lengths. ( )
  nordie | Apr 18, 2022 |
I'm really glad I stuck with the book. My interest in it would rise and fall as I'd read it. I'd absorb 50 pages without moving, and then not pick it up for 3 days. It was strange that it would grab my interest and lose my interest several times over. But overall - I really enjoyed it. ( )
  KimZoot | Jan 2, 2022 |
I read this book years ago, and I know that I loved it because it made the cut when I did a huge book purge back in 2012 (as in I got rid of over 1500 books…many went to good homes and the rest to the local library, from which I’m sure I probably purchased some of the same books back cause you know…my mind doesn’t always work right!lol).

So when it was listed as part of the January book for an Instagram group read, I was happy to pull it off my shelf.

….and it was just as good as I remembered, with the added bonus of understanding certain things better or more thoroughly.

For instance, I totally missed that the title of “Middlesex” was also the name of the street, the house, as well as a play on the word intersex. The story grabs you right from the beginning in one of the strongest beginning sentences I’ve ever read: “I was born twice, 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.” - The protagonist, Cal, goes on to list all the other things he is, which establishes right away that Cal is more than just his sex. I loved that!

This story is about family, history, immigration, the secrets that we carry and the burden of carrying them, the choices that we make, right or wrong, and their repercussions. It is also about reinventing ourselves and living our own lives, which can be at odds with societal convections or taboos. - There is room for ambiguity not just in bodies but in beliefs and conventions.
I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative style used to provide this epic span of different generations, and it amazes me how well the author was able to incorporate cultural, political and social issues in a way that allows you to understand the outside culture as well as the “inside” family culture, as we move along the story.

As to the word “hermaphrodite,” I wanted to know why the author had used it as opposed to “intersex” and since I wasn’t sure as to when the terminology changed, I looked up a Q&A the author did in 2007, (Oprah ) in which he answers the question of why he was not more sensitive to terminology. The author explained that he uses the word “intersex” when making reference to actual living persons, but that Middlesex came out of the Greek mythology story of Hermaphroditus, which he retold in a modern way. Therefore, when he uses the word “hermaphrodite,” he is making reference to the literary character. Reference is also made to The Intersex Society of North America co-opting the word “hermaphrodite” as a way to reclaim it which is why Cal/narrator also uses the word. He states, “It’s paradoxical: Cal can say “hermaphrodite” but I can’t. or Shouldn’t.” He goes one to say that people should be aware of the proper term, which was becoming more widely known at the time the book was released. The author’s use of Greek mythology is evident from the first page when he makes reference to Tiresias (blind prophet in Hades that helps Odysseus see the danger up head in his journey).

I’m glad I had this opportunity to reread this wonderful book! And glad that I didn’t hate it this second time around (it happens…sometimes I outgrow certain books…reading is subjective and situational after all)
Some quotes I liked:

“Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.”
“I live my own life and nurse my own wounds. It’s not the best way to live. But it’s the way I am.
“There was nowhere I could go that wouldn’t be you.”
“Just like ice, lives crack, too. Personalities. Identities.”
“The mind self-edits. The mind airbrushes. It’s a different thing to be inside a body than outside. From outside, you can look, inspect, compare. From inside there is no comparison.”
“It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, “St ( )
  Eosch1 | Jan 2, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 590 (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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