Thoughts on Middlesex

I bought this book for myself. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.

MIddlesex

Released: September 16, 2003
Pages: 529 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Identity, family, immigrants, race, war
Genre(s): Literary Fiction / LGBT+ / Historical Fiction
Age Group: 16+

★★★★½

Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

My Thoughts

I picked up Middlesex at the end of May while our house was still out of electricity after a crazy storm. I had bought this book early last year as it was a book I’d been aware of for a long time, having loved The Virgin Suicides movie which is based on the book also by Jeffrey Eugendies. So this book was a kind of “bucket list” read for me; there was no urgency to reading it. Despite what I gathered from this book’s summary, I quickly discovered as I was sucked into the world of this book that I had no idea I could have expected.

One word could be best used to describe this novel: EPIC.

Middlesex is told from the narrator of Calliope Stephanides as an adult living in Germany. He describes his family history starting with his paternal grandparents, Lefty and Desmodena, to reveal how he came to be who he is. His narrative voice is absolutely charming. I think he’s one of my favorite narrators of all time, the way he describes his family’s past as if he’s a fly on the wall, zooming in and out of focus to relay his grandparents’ and parents’ unique life experiences as Greek immigrants in the Detroit during the 20th century.

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.

Going into this book, I was expecting it to focus primarily on the narrator’s life. So I was so surprised to find that this book lingers far longer upon the experiences of his immigrant grandparents and why they had to leave their home, how they crafted new identities and made it through Ellis Island, and how they adjusted to new lives as Americans in Detroit in the 1920s at the height of its greatness. I loved learning about Detroit, a city of which I’m sad to say I’ve only had negative associations growing up.

I was also surprised at how this book was also a love letter to Detroit, and how much I learned about history: the eastern European immigrant experience pre-WWII, the Civil Rights movements of African-Americans and the LGBT+ community, etc. It was so unexpected but also so appreciated.

I actually loved learning about the history through the grandparents’ and parents’ lives so much that it was a kind of a bummer when the book finally began to focus on Callie, especially after their family moves into the suburbs. Much of the narration at this point begins to center on Callie’s childhood and adolescent experiences leading up to her self-discovery.

End Note

I loved this book. It took me a while to finish, but it was an engrossing read that completely transported me into the story with all its historical and familial detail. To anyone who thinks they might want to read this book, I encourage you to do so. I also recommend that you have a good amount of time to commit to it. It took me almost a month to finish this book, although to be fair I went almost two weeks without picking it up after burnout, even though I was enjoying it! Also, I skipped ahead to the end eventually, impatient to see what would happen.

I think this book is an incredibly timely read right now. If you live in the US and follow the news, you likely have heard about the recent controversy about North Carolina trying to block transgender people from using the gendered bathrooms with which they identify. And just this past weekend, an unbalanced psychopath (likely a closeted & conflicted homosexual) took an AR-15 (an assault weapon which is legal for US civilians to purchase because of the National Rifle Association) to kill 49 innocent people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

We are still fighting for a world that understands and is accepting of all people, regardless of race, sex, etc. So I really thinks books like Middlesex are great reminders of history that is rarely taught in schools (based on my Texas high school experience) that it’s important to know where we came from so that we can put our best feet forward.

 Thank you for reading!
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Hello January 2016 (Life Update + TBR).

Life Update

Yesterday I made the three-hour journey from Houston to Dallas, effectively ending my holiday retreat at my parents’ house. In past years, the end of the holidays had always been more sweet than bitter. This year I’ve found myself indifferent. I feel more carefree when I’m staying at my parents’ home, but I also feel like it sets me back. I have trouble being productive there. Also, I feel tethered to my parents’ schedule.

One would think returning to my apartment in Dallas would have been met with a bit more joy, but I can’t stop thinking about tornados since the devastating outbreak this past Christmas that destroyed hundreds of homes not far from where I live. I live on the third, topmost floor of my apartment building. If a tornado hits I’m not sure I’ll make it. (Am I being dramatic? I’m not sure.)

If I’ve learned anything over my past semester at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), it’s that I don’t want to live in Dallas past graduation. Unless a dream job comes up, but that’s unlikely.

Next Monday classes start back up for me again. All my classes will be in evening from 7–9 pm, but I’ve still not finalized my schedule. I’m certain only on the two classes required for my degree program which are only offered in spring: Digital Textuality and Digital Culture. But I’m taking one more class, an elective, for which I have two options from which to choose: Creating Interactive Media and Information Design for New Media. I do not want to take both (primarily because I don’t want to take four classes this semester), so I’m squatting in both classes right now as I wait patiently for the syllabi to show up which will hopefully help me decide which will best serve my interests/needs.

With the rest of my time before classes start, I’m just trying to work on getting myself on a productive schedule. I haven’t been reading as much as I like, I haven’t been writing, and I haven’t been blogging because there’s been so little to talk about. It feels like I’ve been static for too long and I’m ready to come back to life again.

 January 2016 TBR

This year I am trying to live by the motto “slow and steady wins the race.” I’ve always been someone who gets hooked on something and then quickly burns out and loses interest. Last year I read the bulk of my books early in the year. This year I’m not going to push myself so hard. Especially as reading more was my primary goal for the year (which I achieved; I read well over 50!). But this year I have more things I want to do, which I’ll explain in my New Year’s Resolutions post later today or tomorrow.

Also, I’m trying not to buy too many new books this year. My living situation is precarious and I don’t like buying books that then get left at my parents’ house before I can read them. As I’m now a graduate student I have a new library to utilize, which is very good about stocking new releases! So there’s no predicting what I’ll be able to get my hands on. 🙂

So the only books I know I want to read from my personal library are:

toothmiddlesex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

I’m a little over 50 pages into this book and it’s been off to a great start. The brilliant characters and conflict grabbed me immediately. I’m reading it fairly slowly as I’ve been preoccupied with other things in my life and I’m out of reading shape. 🙂

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I can’t really explain my interest in prioritizing this book. I just feel like the summary is intriguing and I’m attracted to the depth I’m expecting of this book. Also I love the movie The Virgin Suicides and I’ve never even read that book so I’m excited to finally experience this author’s writing. I’ve also not read fiction set in the real world for a while so this excites me.

Others…

I also have four digital ARCs from Edelweiss that I need to get to by the end of the month for review.

AND I have my writing buddy’s first draft of her first novel to read! She sent it to me on Christmas Day and I can’t wait to read the story we’ve been talking about for well over a year and provide her with feedback. 🙂

End Note

I will be posting my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 late today I think, or I might schedule it for tomorrow morning (CST). I’ve not yet posted my official announcement on Books o’ the Wisp. I don’t expect too many people to follow me here from there, but I worry I’m letting people dangle over there. And I do intend to make that blog completely private once the premium features expire.

I have lot of posts planned for this new blog. I’m going to try and pre-schedule things so that everything doesn’t come out all in January and I have nothing left for February (“slow and steady”). Hope you enjoy my new blog! If you’d like to receive notifications of when I post new things, please check out any of my other social media links below!

Thank you for reading!
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