Book review: Letters for My Sisters: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect, edited by Andrea James and Deanne Thornton

Letters for My SistersJames, Andrea and Deanne Thornton, editors. Letters for My Sisters: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect. Transgress Press, 2014. $15.00 PB. ISBN: 9781499342031.

Thirty-four essays, couched as letters to the younger self, are sorted into sections titled Acceptance, Strength, Hope, and Gratitude. The authors are women who have transitioned from the male role they were assigned at birth. Some of the letters were anonymous postings to a blog on Trans Road Map while others were submitted specifically for the book. A few are by well-known people.

The essays convey a wide range of views on the process and perils of gender transition. For example, Devon was excited to make new friends after transitioning, until she realized, “I was an unwitting guest on their personal ‘Jerry Springer Show.’” Worse, “For others, I became an opportunity for them to demonstrate how admirably open-minded they were.” Jennifer Finney Boylan offers cautions to those who get the chance to be on television. And editor Deanne Thornton has advice that can be good for anyone, “Avoid people that want to tell you how to do things they haven’t done themselves.”

The authors have done their work well. All the essays are clear and readable and many are very personal. While the focus may seem narrow in addressing only persons considering a transition to living in their female identity, the Williams Institute estimates about 700,000 adults living in the US identify as transgender. That makes it extremely likely that most libraries serve more than one person who could use this book. Moreover, it is a companion volume to the original Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect edited by Megan Roher and Zander Keig. Public and academic libraries should have them both.

Carolyn Caywood, retired from Virginia Beach Public Library


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