Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"I'm Looking Through You"

Jennifer Finney Boylan's memoir, She's Not There, published in 2003, was one of the first bestselling works by a transgendered American; until 2001 she published under the name James Boylan.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new memoir, I'm Looking Through You, and reported the following:
Page 69 of I'm Looking Through You comes at the end of a chapter that takes place at a debutante party in the 1970s; I'm still a boy then, although it's clear enough that I will grow up to be female. At the party I've made out, briefly, with a girl in a dark stairwell; I can't see her, she can't see me.

Turns out we both have secrets -- for her part, "Faith" has a blood disease that will kill her months later.

The 7 lines on page 69 present me seeing "Faith's" obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and her photo. I've never actually see her face before.

"Oh dear," my mother said. "Was she a friend?"

I remembered the smell of her hair, the feeling of her lips against my neck. Her voice in the dark, softly saying, It's only me.

"No," I said. "Not really."

Is this typical of the rest of the book? I don't know. It's a little grimmer than the rest of I'm Looking Through You, which, although it is about growing up in a haunted house, is on the whole a lot funnier and more joyful than this. And yet, the book is also about what it means to be "haunted," and so sure: here's a moment where the young James is haunted by the psychological ghost of another girl, someone who also carried something that others will find inscrutable.

It's my sense that it's those psychological ghosts -- the spirits of the children we used to be, the specter of the adults we may become -- that make a person "haunted," and it's these ghosts with whom we most struggle to make our peace. As I write later in the book -- exactly 82 pages later, "I have come to suspect that far more hearts are haunted than houses."
Read an excerpt from I'm Looking Through You and learn more about the author and her work at Jenny Boylan's website and her blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue