Friday 14 June 2019

Book ~ "The Unfinished Dollhouse: A Memoir of Gender and Identity" (2018) Michelle Alfano

From Goodreads ~ No mother is prepared for the moment when a child comes out to her as a person whose physical gender is out-of-keeping with his emotional and psychological gender-identity. In Michelle Alfano's intimate memoir, she recounts her experience as the mother of a transgender child.

The central metaphor of "The Unfinished Dollhouse" tells the story: on Frankie's fourth birthday, her parents Michelle and Rob purchased a kit to create a beautiful dollhouse. Michelle imagined building the home, buying the tiny pieces of furniture and accessories to fill it and, more importantly, the times she and her daughter would spend constructing the perfect dollhouse - a fantasy of domestic and familial happiness. Frankie expressed no interest in such typically girlish pursuits because Frankie harboured a secret - a secret about gender.

In the years to follow, Frankie's parents experienced an education in parenting a child transitioning from female to male - which pronouns to use, how to disclose the information to friends, family, school and how to deal with the reactions of all - some heartening, some surprising, some disappointing.

Michelle and Rob are married, living in Toronto and had a daughter named Frankie.  Michelle had dreams of what her daughter would like ... frilly dresses, girly dolls, a dollhouse (hence the title of the book ... the dollhouse was never put together), etc.  Frankie instead like to play with "boy" toys, hated girly girly things and like to dress more masculine.  As she was getting older, she had severe bouts of illnesses, anxieties, depression and didn't want to leave her room.  Michelle and Rob took her to doctors, counselors, etc. to determine the cause.  Finally when she was in her mid-teens, Frankie revealed that she was a boy born in a girl's body.  And once she revealed this, she wanted to do something about it ... begin the journey to transition from a female to a male.

This is Michelle's story as the mother of a transgender child.  Michelle comes from a traditional Italian background and Rob is Asian ... how do they tell their family and friends?.  It's how they dealt with having a child who didn't want to leave their room and was depressed.  And when Frankie finally told them what she wanted, how they dealt with it ... the denial, the anger, the resentment and the acceptance.

I thought it was an interesting story to read what a family goes through when their child tells them they are transgender and all they have do to transition.  At times the book seems all about Michelle, rather than Frankie ... we learn a lot about her, her family and growing up.

The book could have been edited better.  There was a lot of repetition, sometimes even on the same page.  At 67% into the book, she said, "I called Frankie's dad ..."  Why wouldn't she say she called Rob?  This far into the book, I know Frankie's father's name.  And there was odd phrasing at times.  For example, she writes about the death of friends' son named Pablo.  Pablo was "one of two twins".  When I read that, I thought the family had two sets of twins.  But no, there was only one set of twins and Pablo was one of the twins.

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