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I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged


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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc; Library ed edition (18 Feb. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400135966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400135967
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.3 x 16.3 cm

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 25 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Boylan's story is at once singular and familiar --- the right combination for a successful memoir 22 Jan. 2008
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A quick glance of Jennifer Finney Boylan's latest memoir, I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU, would give the impression that the book focuses on growing up in a haunted house. But a closer look reveals, as the subtitle states, that it is about "growing up haunted." This is an important distinction.

Boylan did live for many years in a house, aptly named the "Coffin House" after the family who built it, that she took to be haunted. Her family moved there in 1972, just as she was entering her teenage years. On her first visit she received a big electrical shock, followed by another surprise: she was to sleep in a spooky third floor bedroom while the rest of her family would get their shut-eye on the floor below. From that first day exploring her new home, Boylan felt the presence of ghosts, and her nights there were full of disembodied footsteps and floating specters. As her story unfolds, it becomes more complex and nuanced. She moves readers back and forth in time, telling stories of the Coffin House, her adventures with "ghostbusters" later in life, and, most especially, her personal hauntings.

As she wrote in her earlier bestselling memoir, SHE'S NOT THERE, Boylan was born "James" but always knew herself to be "Jenny." It wasn't until after she was grown, a college English professor married with two sons of her own, that she came out as transgendered and began the process of becoming a woman physically. Her time in the Coffin House coincided with her teenage years, and she relates her frustration and uncertainty with honesty and grace. "Back then," she writes, "I knew very little for certain about whatever it was that afflicted me, but I did know this much: that in order to survive, I'd have to become something like a ghost myself, and keep the nature of my true self hidden." In fact, later, returning to the house as an adult woman, after the place had been remodeled and filled with the laughter of the next generation, she wonders if she had indeed haunted herself. Was the starry-eyed woman she saw, as a teenage boy, over her shoulder in the mirror really her future self still trapped and lonely in the male body?

There are other figures who haunt this tale as well. Boylan mourns the loss of her father and older sister, neither of whom get to know her as Jenny. Her family factors large in this memoir, of course. They are an eccentric Irish bunch: a crass and loving grandmother and her refined English sidekick, a perpetually cold aunt, a mystical cousin and others support the story of the immediate Boylan clan, including Jenny's smart older sister, musical father, and religious and accepting mother.

In the post-Frey era, memoirs are read with a critical eye. Like many others today, I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU is prefaced with the disclaimer that there are elements of invention in the book, including some of the dialogue, and that she played a bit with the timeline. For readers of memoirs this may seem obvious (for who can remember the exact words of a conversation 30 years ago?), but it frees the author and allows her a creativity that only strengthens the story she is trying to tell. And Boylan's style is creative --- light-handed and readable, funny and wise, conversational and intimate, and yet polished.

Sprinkled with philosophy, without sounding snobby, and pop-culture references without being silly, I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU is an enjoyable and memorable read. Boylan's story is at once singular and familiar --- the right combination for a successful memoir. While the Coffin House provides the bones of the book, it is lovingly fleshed out, with a personal, often bittersweet examination of family, loss, identity and change.

--- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"Far more hearts are haunted than houses" 26 Aug. 2008
By Linda Bulger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
At first glance I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir seems to be about growing up in a haunted house, but it's much more than that. Author Jennifer Finney Boylan uses the near-translucent spirits inhabiting her family home as a metaphor for her dissociated youth. She spent her first 40 years as James Boylan, the boy's and man's body a bad fit for her soul.

The Boylan family moved to the aptly named "Coffin House" on Philadelphia's Main Line, and at once young James began to observe ghostly shapes drifting through the rooms. Through the teen years and in later visits as a young adult, alienated by feelings that "James" was meant to be "Jenny," the author continued to experience the ghosts. In more recent years, after transgender surgery turned James into Jenny at last, she visited the house with a "ghostbusting" team and came to a better understanding of the strange presence and what it was foreshadowing to the boy, near-translucent himself.

This memoir follows the theme of author Boylan's earlier book She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, expanding on her life with a full cast of eccentric extended family members and friends. Boylan's humor has a dark cast; she deflects her serious moods with lightning-quick turnarounds, yet the reader never doubts her seriousness. The book is full of music and cultural references that at times are the only tethers holding Jenny/James in the real world.

Parent and partner, professor, friend, musician, daughter, sister -- some of Boylan's relationships have thrived and some suffered. Her books leave me believing that, as she states, she's "solid" at last. I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted: A Memoir is not your everyday memoir but it will make you think -- about ghosts, but especially about the human experience.

Linda Bulger, 2008
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Haunted In More Ways Than One 22 Feb. 2008
By John D. Cofield - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had never heard of Jennifer Finney Boylan before I saw this book advertised, but I was drawn to it by the subtitle: Growing Up Haunted. We all live with memories of our past and from our family's pasts, and its interesting to see how others deal with their "hauntedness." Jennifer was born James Boylan, a child who felt "transparent" and "not there" through his childhood. Eventually, James recognized that he was trans-gendered, and succeeded in becoming a "solider" person as Jennifer. Before that transition she had a lively childhood in a house which had some weird spectres or "ghosts" along with a real living family of eccentrics.

Jennifer's story is interesting on several levels, both sad and amusing. She writes well and wittily and conveys a good impression of life in a haunted house as well as what it was like to grow up in a family which, while not wealthy, was part of Philadelphia's Main Line society.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Haunting Memoir 1 July 2009
By H. F. Corbin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jennifer Finney Boylan in I'M LOOKING THROUGH YOU: GROWING UP HAUNTED, her second book to discuss her transformation from James to Jennifer, has much going for it. Since Ms. Boylan is a professor of English at Colby College and the author of several novels, we would expect that she is fluent in the language. And that she is. Her prose is as transparent and effortless as a stream in Maine, the state she and her family call home. Her wonderful sense of humor will grab you immediately. Case in point: "What am I doing here with a gin and tonic and a [...]?" At one point she opines that her sense of humor may have kept her sane in her anything-but-conventional life. The cast of characters is usually both entertaining and compelling; many of them surely could be subjects of short stories.

In a recent radio interview I heard Ms. Boyan, without whining, discussing the difficulties that she has faced in the world of the transgendered. While she dwells less on the topic in this memoir than in her previous book, SHE IS NOT THERE: A LIFE IN TWO GENDERS, she does rue the fact that she too often has to explain herself to and educate the gawking public about this world, something that a lot of us who are different from the great washed majority have long since become tired of doing.

What comes through on every page of this book is that Ms. Boylan is a remarkable woman and the most decent of people. I am convinced that I would like her on sight and would love to audit one of her English classes. She is far too kind to her sister Lydia (the book is dedicated to her sister) who has refused to ever see her again and demands that when she visits their mother that portraits of James/Jennifer must be removed from her mother's home and that Jennifer's name cannot be mentioned. Lydia needs to get over herself and/or stay in Scotland. Her mother should inform her that she does not remove photographs of anybody for her or anyone else.

Ms. Boylan says in the introduction that this book is a memoir. We'll just have to accept this-- at least recent ones-- as a new genre somewhere between fiction and non-fiction. She is obviously the godchild of Frank McCourt whom she refers to in the introduction-- who wrote dozens of pages of dialogue in ANGELA'S ASHES that supposedly took place while he was a child under the age of six, a feat that stretches credibility to say the least. This writer convinces us, however, that she has caught the essence of what happened to her. I for one, whether events happened exactly as she writes of them or not, would not have missed her account of the decorating of the Christmas tree with ornaments with each family member's names on them, as well as extended family and a special place on the tree for deceased pets known as the "Pet Cemetery."

This book should go a long way in convincing us that we are all in this together and we are more alike than different.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? 30 July 2010
By Peter Baklava - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Studied, mannered, and implausible", Richard Russo says of Jennifer Boylan in the pages of this memoir. I believe that quote much more than the blurb Russo put on the cover, extolling "I'm Looking Through You" as "one of the finest literary memoirs...", on a par with Mary Karr's books.

No way. This book isn't remotely in the same league as Mary Karr. I've read "Liar's Club". "I'm Looking Through You" is fairly entertaining, but I really couldn't take it seriously. The word that comes to mind is "fluff".

Jennifer Boylan, as she regularly reminds her readers, is clever and well-connected. She's been on "Oprah". She can play classical music pieces backwards, in ragtime.

As a writer, she is wonderful adept at pushing the readers' buttons...but they aren't always the right buttons. She's whipped up a light, frothy cafe au lait of a book, and stuffed it full of comforts for the boomer generation. There is a threnody running through it about ghosts. But Jennifer doesn't know whether she believes in ghosts. But, since its a theme of the book, she regularly returns to it.... time to talk about those ghosts again, and she hears a few more creaks in the steps.

It really seems that all Boylan cares about is whether her readers are entertained. Did she do enough song and dance, did you smile or cringe at her silly jokes?

Was I entertained? Yes, I have to admit I was. Was I satisfied that I had spent time with a book of substance? No, sadly,I wasn't.
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