Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides

MiddlesexREAD FOR BOOKCLUB

Chosen by Nadine

Middlesex is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel which chronicles the impact of an intersex gene on three generations of a Greek family.

♥ “Protagonist Calliope (Cal) Stephanides undertakes a rebirth as he comes to terms with his family’s history and how it inevitably led to his hermaphroditic birth.

“The story starts in 1922 where Lefty and Desdemona Stephanides are fleeing war-torn Greece for a new life in America. Their anonymity hides their attraction to one another and the brother and sister are married. Their life in America is shared with their cousin and her family, only for their children, also cousins, to marry. Cal is born to the cousins as a girl and later discovers she has both male and female genitalia. Middlesex is the story is of Cal’s life as an intersex person, the sufferings, the joy, the friends and relationships.

“Gender, identity and rebirth all play a vital role in this 2003 novel as does duality of identification. All three generations of Stephanides must assimilate into American culture while also holding onto their ancestral heritage. Individuals are all given opportunities to reinvent themselves throughout the novel. And ultimately, it offers the message that however you identify yourself in terms of gender, ethnicity, nationality, or religion makes no difference. If you are at peace with yourself, your choices in identification are the right choices.”

I hadn’t gotten old enough yet to realize that living sends a person not into the future but back into the past, to childhood and before birth, finally, to commune with the dead. You get older, you puff on the stairs, you enter the body of your father. From there it’s only a quick jump to your grandparents, and then before you know it you’re time-traveling. In this life we grow backwards.

♥ “Middlesex takes you on a sweeping journey and was quite different to what you might expect from a book about a hermaphrodite. I liked it, but upon reflection I think something didn’t quite gel for me.” – Nadine

♥ “Carefully handled story of a hermaphrodite who struggles with identity issues. Tracing the gene through generations of family provided many interesting stories and gave the novel more of an epic feel. An intriguing book that covers a unique topic, with charming characters to lead you through the story.” – Rachel

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Published 2002
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
544 pages

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