Book review: Becoming Nicole: the Transformation of an American Family, by Amy Ellis Nutt

Nutt Becoming NicoleNutt, Amy Ellis. Becoming Nicole: the Transformation of an American Family. Random House. 2015. $27.00. 304p. HC. ISBN 978-0812995411.

Identical twins were born in 1997 to a teenage cousin of Kelly Maines who, with her husband Wayne, took the boys to raise. But before the children were three years old Wyatt was declaring he wanted to be a girl, even though Jonas was fine with being a boy. Kelly supported Wyatt while Wayne tried to ignore this unexpected development.

Nutt relied on Wayne’s collection of family mementos for the twins’ childhood and actually observed them from 14 to 18 as she wrote how Wyatt’s transformation into Nicole affected each member of their family. In particular, Wayne’s unflinching assessment of his own change of heart is amazing, as is Kelly’s willingness to trust a young child’s self-perception.

In stark contrast is Paul Melanson who coached his grandson to bully Nicole when she started using the girls’ restroom. His actions and the school administration’s lack of support forced the Maines family to relocate and Nicole to spend her middle school years hiding her transgender identity. The stress that put on both Nicole and Jonas is made vivid by the author.

The latest scientific research on how gender identity is formed is explained without interrupting the flow, and even suspense, of the family’s social and legal struggles to have Nicole treated like her peers. And just as the court case that secured Nicole’s right to use the restroom that matched her identity was a turning point, I believe this book will be a breakthrough in understanding. It belongs in high school, public, and academic libraries.

Carolyn Caywood, retired from Virginia Beach Public Library

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