Book - 2003
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Random House, Inc.
The first words of Jeffrey Eugenides exuberant and capacious novel Middlesex take us right to the heart of its unique narrator: “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.”

Middlesex is the story of Cal or Calliope Stephanides, a comic epic of a family’s American life, and the expansive history of a gene travelling down through time, starting with a rare genetic mutation. In 1922, Desdemona and Eleutherios (“Lefty”) Stephanides, brother and sister, leave the war-ravaged village of Bithynios in Asia Minor. With their parents dead and their village almost empty, Desdemona and Lefty have gradually been drawn closer together and fallen in love. As the Turks invade and the Greeks abandon the port of Smyrna, Lefty and Desdemona -- Callie’s grandparents -- escape to reinvent themselves as a married couple in America.

Jeffrey Eugenides recounts the Stephanides family’s experiences over the next fifty years with gusto and delight. Upon their arrival in Detroit, Lefty goes to work at the Ford motor plant and the couple live with Desdemona’s cousin Sourmelina -- a woman with her own secrets -- and her bootlegging husband Jimmy Zizmo. After Jimmy disappears and the Stephanides’ son Milton is born, Lefty opens a speakeasy called the Zebra Room, and Desdemona goes to work tending silkworms for the Nation of Islam.

Milton serves in the Navy in World War II and returns to marry his cousin Tessie, Sourmelina’s daughter, and the errant gene comes closer to expression. Milton takes over the family business and they have two children, Calliope and Chapter Eleven, but as their fortunes rise the city’s fall, and Detroit is torn by riots with the intensity of warfare. The family moves into a new home called Middlesex in a tony suburb, and Calliope, who had been a beautiful little girl, is sent to private school.

So begins one of the strangest, most affecting adolescences in literature. As time passes Calliope gets taller and gawkier without developing into womanhood. Her classmates’ bodies change and they grow interested in boys; Callie remains flat-chested and waits in vain for her first period. And she has a curiously intense friendship with a girl at her school, the beautiful and confident Obscure Object of Desire.

It is only when she has an accident at the Obscure Object’s summer house and is examined by an emergency room doctor that Callie and her parents discover that she isn’t like other girls. She is referred to an eminent New York doctor who, after extensive physical and psychological testing, pronounces her genetically male: 5-alpha-reductase deficiency syndrome caused her true genital characteristics to remain hidden until puberty. Callie is a hermaphrodite. Since she was raised as a girl, Dr. Luce recommends cosmetic surgery and hormone injections to make her seem more fully female.

But Callie refuses to be something she is not. She runs away, cuts her hair short and hitch-hikes across the country to California, calling himself Cal. And after some difficulties -- and performances in a strip club in San Francisco at the height of sexual liberation -- Cal learns to relish being both male and female. One more unexpected family tragedy, and some old revelations, await in Detroit.

This animated and moving story is narrated by Cal Stephanides, now an American diplomat living in Berlin. While telling us about his past, he fumbles towards a romantic relationship with an artist who might be able to accept him for the unique person he is.

Publisher: Toronto :, Vintage Canada,, 2003
Edition: Vintage Canada edition
Copyright Date: ©2002
ISBN: 9780676975659
Characteristics: viii, 529 pages ; 21 cm


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AnaGM May 22, 2019

One of my favorite books EVER. It's so good. The audio book is also really great.

Feb 20, 2019

Not an easy book to get through - though it's well written. It's just LONG! Interesting "insider's view" of life as an 'other-sexual'. Well worth the effort!

HCL_staff_reviews Jul 30, 2018

Narrator Calliope Stephanides recounts the family history, from dire poverty in Greece to race riots in 1960s Detroit. While each character faces his or her own demons, no one is more troubled than our narrator, whose sexual identity is a source of pain, humiliation, and isolation. Eugenides creates a journey of discovery for the reader, dispelling myths about and endowing humanity to the "freak." One could read this work for its many insights and perhaps I will, too, on a second or third reading. But I loved <i>Middlesex</i> first and foremost as a truly wonderful story told by a master storyteller. — Anne P., Washburn Library

Feb 22, 2018

I enjoyed this book immensely. However I'm not sure it would have broad appeal. For starters, it could have been trimmed down by about 150 pages. And secondly, it's a little controversial in many parts. So if you're looking for a great novel that draws on the immigrant experience you might want to skip this one and re-read "I Remember Mama". The one where Mama doesn't marry her brother. That one.

britprincess1ajax Feb 26, 2017

MIDDLESEX is a once-in-a-lifetime book, a novel that spans generations in the style of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE but for good reason for it tells the story of a gene abnormality that can be traced back to a tiny village generations ago. This novel is an immigrant story, a Depression survival tale, a love-triangle romance, a triumphant rags-to-riches success yarn, a coming-of-age YA chronicle, a Kerouac-esque road read, and a gender-bending foray into sexual politics and gender identity. But, above all, MIDDLESEX is about family, specifically the Stephanides clan and their rollercoaster trek through life. Everybody has a family and can relate to the ties that bind and sometimes the bonds that break. It's a beautiful story about living honestly; with that honesty comes laughter, deep sorrow, and tender moments. It's one of the best novels I've ever read, profound without pretension. It feels like nonfiction in moments, so raw that a reader is compelled to believe it must stem from reality. I will not delve into the details so as not to ruin what is a spectacular read. Without question, I highly recommend reading MIDDLESEX.

Jan 11, 2017

This book was nothing at all like what I was expecting and it continued to surprise me throughout. It captures little moments in history and deals with all kinds of social and political issues but does this within the body of a wonderful story. It is filled with wit and humour. There are so many things to admire about this book but when it comes down to it...it was just a great reading experience.

Sep 28, 2016

First half of book was more backstory to the main event -- the life of Callie/Cal. I found the slow first half did not add to the important part of the story focused on her/him.

Jul 29, 2016

This novel had everything. It had historical content from several regions of the world. It spanned several generations in an interestingly well written format. It was a coming of age tale. And the research and perspective regarding transgender issues was illuminating.

Jul 13, 2016

Middlesex is a magnificent, sweeping novel. The narrator, a transgender person, beautifully describes the history of his family starting in Greece and immigrating to Detroit. The family history is entwined with the history of the places, which Eugenides brings to life. The narrative also explores the human desire to neatly fit people into one gender and the narrator’s struggles to find an identity within a body that is Middlesex.

Jun 25, 2016

Enjoyed this very much. That being said, I'm not entirely convinced it needed to be as long as it was, and the digression off into the grandmother's working life in the black neighbourhood of Detroit didn't really add much to the tale as a whole - for me, anyway. It was as well-written as the rest, but I couldn't see what it contributed.... Still - a marvellous read, playful and complicated and human and beautifully written. Something to savour.

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britprincess1ajax Feb 26, 2017

"This was 1988. Maybe the time had finally come when anyone—or at least not the same old someones—could be President. Behold the banners at the Democratic Convention! Look at the bumper stickers on all the Volvos. 'Dukakis.' A name with more than two vowels in it running for President! The last time that had happened was Eisenhower (who looked good on a tank). Generally speaking, Americans like their presidents to have no more than two vowels. Truman. Johnson. Nixon. Clinton. If they have more than two vowels (Reagan), they can have no more than two syllables. Even better is one syllable and one vowel: Bush. Had to do that twice. Why did Mario Cuomo decide against running for President? What conclusion did he come to as he withdrew to think the matter through? Unlike Michael Dukakis, who was from academic Massachusetts, Mario Cuomo was from New York and knew what was what. Cuomo knew he’d never win. Too liberal for the moment, certainly. But also: too many vowels."

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.

SPL_STARR Jun 16, 2015

"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."

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regina123 Aug 03, 2012

regina123 thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


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Jul 28, 2010

Pulitzer Prize winner


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