Boylan, Jennifer Finney 1958-
BOYLAN, Jennifer Finney 1958-
(James Finney Boylan)
PERSONAL: Born James Finney Boylan, 1958, in Valley Forge, PA; name changed to Jennifer Finney Boylan after sex change, 2001; married; wife's name, Deirdre (a social worker); children: Zach, Sean. Education: Wesleyan University, bachelor's degree, 1980; Johns Hopkins University, M.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Belgrade Lakes, ME. Offıce— English Department, Colby College, Waterville, ME 04901. Agent—c/o Kristine Dahl, ICM New York, 40 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Professor and author. Colby College, Waterville, ME, English professor, 1988—. Previously worked as managing editor of American Bystander magazine, and served on the editorial staffs at Penguin Books, Viking Press, and E. P. Dutton, Inc. Visiting professor, University College, Cork, Ireland, 1998-99.
AWARDS, HONORS: Charles Walker Bassett Professor of the Year, Colby College, 2000-01.
(As James Finney Boylan) Remind Me to Murder YouLater (short stories), Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1988.
(As James Finney Boylan) The Planets (novel), Poseidon Press (New York, NY), 1991.
(As James Finney Boylan) The Constellations (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1994.
(As James Finney Boylan) Getting In (novel), Warner Books (New York, NY), 1998.
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Confrontation, Florida Review, Quarterly West, Western Humanities Review, Writer's Digest, and Southwest Review.
SIDELIGHTS: American author Jennifer Finney Boylan has made a career out of writing, editing, and teaching. She was born in Pennsylvania as James Finney Boylan, and attended college at Wesleyan University and Johns Hopkins University. After school, she was managing editor of American Bystander magazine, which was founded by the original cast of the television series Saturday Night Live. She went on to work as an editor at the publishing companies Viking/Penguin, Viking Press, and E. P. Dutton. After finishing her master's degree, Boylan began teaching, first at Johns Hopkins University, then at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Her specialties include fiction writing, American literature, and gender studies. In 2001, Boylan underwent a sexual reassignment surgery and officially changed her name to Jennifer Finney Boylan.
Over the years, Boylan has written many short stories that have appeared in literary magazines, including Southwest Review, Writer's Digest, Western Humanities Review, and Quarterly West. Her first book, published in 1988, is a collection of short stories titled Remind Me to Murder You Later. The works feature characters faced with atypical dilemmas of either their own making or from forces beyond their control.
In 1991, Boylan wrote and published her first novel, The Planets. It is set in the real town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, where an underground coal mine fire has been burning since the 1960s. Inspired by a classical music piece by Gustav Holst, Boylan tells the story of several Centralia characters who are affected by the suicide of a skydiving woman. The Planets was acclaimed by critics. In a review for Publishers Weekly, Sybil Steinberg wrote, "Boylan offers some perceptive observations about how difficult it is for people to take control of their own lives, and about the lack of communication between the sexes."
Boylan wrote a sequel to The Planets in 1994 with The Constellations. This novel follows the lives of many of the characters from her previous novel, as well as new ones. The main character, Phoebe Harrison, is a teenager who leaves behind her heavy-metal image to fit in as a preppy at her new school. Critics again praised Boylan's efforts in The Constellations. A Publishers Weekly contributor commenting that the author has "a gift for comic incidents and absurd dialogue."
In 1998, Boylan wrote her third novel, Getting In. In this story, she follows four high school seniors and three parents as they embark on a trip throughout New England to visit several elite universities, in the hopes of gaining admittance. On the journey, they wrestle with the complex relationships they have with each other. Boylan writes humorously, too, about the college experience, including admissions interviews and school traditions. Getting In was optioned for film in 1998 by Rennie Harlin and Geena Davis, and Boylan wrote two screenplay adaptations of the novel for New Line Cinema.
Getting In was lauded by critics and popular with readers. Many picked up on Boylan's talent at writing humorously about strange and sometimes serious situations and relationships. Stephanie Zvirin, in a review for Booklist, wrote, "Using a rich layer of irony, Boylan . . . [gives] readers not only a good deal to laugh about but a good deal to think about as well."
In 2003, Boylan delved into the world of nonfiction with the release of her memoir, She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders. In it she chronicles her lifetime of struggle as a transgender person, being born into a male body but internally identifying herself as female. Beginning with her childhood, she writes of this journey through adolescence and into adulthood when she married and had two children. In her early forties, she finally opened up her true feelings to family and friends, and made the decision to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, becoming physically a woman. The book explores the personal relationships Boylan has and how they changed and transformed once she became a woman, including that with best friend and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo, who wrote the book's afterword.
She's Not There received praise from critics and readers alike. Many reviewers credited Boylan for writing a memoir tackling such serious issues with humor and accessibility. "What marks Jenny's autobiography . . . from many of her transsexual peers is the refreshing candor and wit, [and] a quiet sense of humor that persists through the trials and tribulations," wrote Lambda Book Report contributor Willow Arune. Similarly, Mark Alan Williams, in a review for Library Journal, recognized Boylan's down-to-earth style of writing. He commented that Boylan's story is "often humorous and illustrative and always enjoyable and enriching without being preachy."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Boylan, Jennifer Finney, She's Not There: A Life inTwo Genders, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Advocate, November 23, 2004, review of She's NotThere, p. 97.
Book, September-October, 2003, Stephanie Foote, review of She's Not There, p. 89.
Booklist, August, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Getting In, p. 1959; January 1, 1999, review of Getting In, p. 781; April 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Getting In, p. 1400; September 1, 2003, Kathleen Hughes, review of She's Not There, p. 46.
Boston Globe, October 16, 2003, Joseph P. Kahn, "Becoming Jenny," p. D1; September 23, 2004, Christopher Muther, "Jennifer Boylan's Quiet, Transgendered Revolution," p. 10.
Curve, May, 2004, Rachel Pepper, review of She's NotThere, p. 44.
Entertainment Weekly, August 8, 2003, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of She's Not There, p. 79.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2003, review of She's NotThere, p. 786.
Lambda Book Report, May, 2004, Willow Arune, review of She's Not There, p. 32.
Library Journal, July, 2003, Mark Alan Williams, review of She's Not There, p. 95.
M2 Best Books, August 14, 2003, "Author Recounts Her Transition from Man to Woman."
New Yorker, September 29, 2003, Kate Taylor, "Gender Blenders," p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Planets, p. 209; September 12, 1994, review of The Constellations, p. 78; July 20, 1998, review of Getting In, p. 205; April 21, 2003, review of She's Not There, p. 45.
Theory into Practice, spring, 2004, Matthew D. Conley and Lesley Colabucci, review of She's Not There, p. 159.
Washington Post, October 5, 2003, Judith Warner, "Three Books Plumb the Perennial, Unstable Mysteries of Physical Being and Identity," p. 5.
Women's Review of Books, April, 2004, Jennifer L. Pozner, review of She's Not There, p. 4; April, 2004, Jennifer L. Pozner, "Gender Immigrant" (interview), p. 5.
BookBrowse.com,http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (December 13, 2004), "Jennifer Finney Boylan."
CNN.com,http://www.cnn.com/ (August 18, 2003), "The Man Who Became a Woman."
Colby College Web site,http://www.colby.edu/ (December 13, 2004), "Jennifer Finney Boylan."
Time Warner Bookmark Web site,http://www.twbookmark.com/ (December 13, 2004).*