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Becoming Nicole
Cover of Becoming Nicole
Becoming Nicole
The Transformation of an American Family
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERThe inspiring true story of transgender actor and activist Nicole Maines, whose identical twin brother, Jonas, and ordinary American family join her on an extraordinary journey...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERThe inspiring true story of transgender actor and activist Nicole Maines, whose identical twin brother, Jonas, and ordinary American family join her on an extraordinary journey...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • The inspiring true story of transgender actor and activist Nicole Maines, whose identical twin brother, Jonas, and ordinary American family join her on an extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all.

    Nicole appears as TV's first transgender superhero on CW's Supergirl

    When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But by the time Jonas and Wyatt were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt's insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept Wyatt's transition to Nicole, and to undergo a wrenching transformation of their own, the effects of which would reverberate through their entire community. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this story and tells it with unflinching honesty, intimacy, and empathy. In her hands, Becoming Nicole is more than an account of a courageous girl and her extraordinary family. It's a powerful portrait of a slowly but surely changing nation, and one that will inspire all of us to see the world with a little more humanity and understanding.
    Named One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by People • One of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review and Men's Journal • A Stonewall Honor Book in Nonfiction
  • Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction
    "Fascinating and enlightening."—Cheryl Strayed
    "If you aren't moved by Becoming Nicole, I'd suggest there's a lump of dark matter where your heart should be."The New York Times
    "Exceptional . . . 'Stories move the walls that need to be moved,' Nicole told her father last year. In telling Nicole's story and those of her brother and parents luminously, and with great compassion and intelligence, that is exactly what Amy Ellis Nutt has done here."The Washington Post
    "A profoundly moving true story about one remarkable family's evolution."People
    "Becoming Nicole is a miracle. It's the story of a family struggling with—and embracing—a transgender child. But more than that, it's about accepting one another, and ourselves, in all our messy, contradictory glory."—Jennifer Finney Boylan, former co-chair of GLAAD and author of She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Prologue Mirror Image

    The child is mesmerized. Tapping his toes and shuffling his small sandaled feet in a kind of awkward dance, he swirls and twirls, not in front of the camera, but in front of the window in the shiny black oven door. It's just the right height for a two--year--old. Wyatt is bare chested and wears a floppy hat on the back of his head. A string of colorful Mardi Gras beads swings around his neck. But what has really caught his attention, what has made this moment magical, are the shimmering sequins on his pink tutu. With every twist and turn, slivers of light briefly illuminate the face of the little boy entranced by his own image.

    "This is one of Wyatt's favorite pastimes---dancing in front of the window of the stove," says the disembodied voice behind the video camera. "He's got his new skirt on and his bohemian chain and his hat and he's going at it. . . . Wave to the camera, Wy."

    Maybe Wyatt doesn't hear his father. Maybe he's only half--listening, but for whatever reason he ignores him and instead sways back and forth, his eyes never leaving his own twinkling reflection. Finally, the little boy does what he's asked---sort of. He twists his head around slightly and gazes shyly up at his father, then lets out a small squeal of delight. It is a child's expression of intense happiness, but Wayne Maines wants something else.

    "Show me your muscles, Wy. Can I see your muscles?" he prompts the son.

    Suddenly Wyatt seems self--conscious. His eyes slide slowly from his father's face and settle on something---or nothing---on the other side of the kitchen, just out of camera range. He hesitates, not sure what to do, then, ignoring his father again, turns back to the oven window and strikes a pose. It's a halfhearted pose, really: With his two little fists propped under his chin, he flexes his nonexistent muscles. He knows he's not giving his father what he wants, but he also can't seem to break the spell of his reflection.

    "Show me your muscles. Over here. Show them to me."

    Wayne is getting frustrated.

    "Show Daddy your muscles, like this. Over here. Wyatt. Show me your muscles."

    At last, the appeals have their desired effect. Wyatt turns again toward his father, hands still under his chin, arms still against his sides, and looks up at him. But that's it. That's all Wayne Maines is going to get. With a look of part defiance, part apology, the little boy turns back to the oven window.

    "All right. That's enough," the disappointed father says and clicks the camera off.

    Before love, before loss, before we ever yearn to be something we are not, we are bodies breathing in space---"turbulent, fleshy, sensual," Walt Whitman once wrote. We are inescapably physical, drawn to the inescapably human. But if we are defined by our own bodies, we are entwined by the bodies of others. An upright, moving human being is endlessly more fascinating to an infant than any rattle or plaything. At six months, babies can barely babble, but they can tell the difference between a male and a female. When a feverish infant rests its head on its mother's chest, her body cools to compensate and brings the child's temperature down. Place the ear of a preemie against its mother's heart and the baby's irregular heartbeat finds its right rhythm.

    As we grow and mature and become self--conscious, we are taught that appearances---who we are on the outside---aren't nearly as important as who we are on the inside. And yet beauty beguiles us. Human beings are unconsciously drawn to the symmetrical and the aesthetic. We are, in short, uncompromisingly physical, even self--absorbed. The philosopher and...

About the Author-

  • Amy Ellis Nutt won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for her feature series "The Wreck of the Lady Mary" about the 2009 sinking of a fishing boat off the New Jersey coast. She is a health and science writer at The Washington Post, the author of Shadows Bright as Glass, and the co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Teenage Brain. She was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton, and an instructor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 14, 2015
    This poignant account of a transgender girl's transition offers a heartfelt snapshot of a family whose only objective is to protect their daughter. Tackling the subject from a biological, social, and psychological viewpoint, Pulitzer-winning reporter Nutt (Shadows Bright as Glass) weaves complex elements of what being transgender means into a compelling narrative about a young woman who has identified as female since early childhood. Her middle-class family in rural Maine struggle to navigate the American education, legal, and medical systems in order for their daughter to "become Nicole." Tensions around a court case involving the designation of male and female bathrooms, Nicole's evolving relationship with her father, and the family's conflict between privacy and advocacy advance the story. Writing in a very journalistic tone, Nutt succeeds in placing Nicole's individual story within the more general narrative of transgender rights in the United States and humanizes the issues currently at play.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2016
    Jonas and Wyatt entered the world as identical twin boys, adopted by Kelly and Wayne Maines after being born to Kelly's teenage cousin who wasn't ready to be a mother. By toddlerhood, Wyatt vocalized that she was a girl; Jonas always recognized he had a sister. Kelly supported Wyatt unconditionally as she asserted her true identity. Wayne's understanding took longer, but second grader Jonas provided him with the perfect explanation: "Face it, Dad, you have a son and a daughter." Wayne's growth from acceptance to activism is an inspiring lesson for all parents. Nutt ("Shadows Bright as Glass") follows the Maineses' journey as Wyatt becomes Nicole--a personal transformation to bring congruence both inside and out. Nutt edifies readers with history, science, medicine, and law, deftly exposing the family's challenges without demonizing the ignorant, fearful, at times downright nasty naysayers. VERDICT Nutt narrates with an inviting, open earnestness. Not an actor, she is a storyteller, with perfect timing--how did she know three years ago (when she began reporting on the Maineses) that transgender identity would be such an auspicious topic? "Nicole" should be in audio collections everywhere.--Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • People "A profoundly moving true story about one remarkable family's evolution."
  • Cheryl Strayed "Fascinating and enlightening."
  • The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice) "[Becoming Nicole] generously traces the parameters of parental love . . . delving deep into the case of a single family with a transgender child and discovering in its particulars certain universal truths about the ways children arrive in one's life already themselves."
  • Sue Halpern, The Washington Post "[An] exceptional chronicle . . . 'Stories move the walls that need to be moved,' Nicole told her father last year. In telling Nicole's story and those of her brother and parents luminously, and with great compassion and intelligence, that is exactly what Amy Ellis Nutt has done here."
  • Jennifer Senior, The New York Times "Reading strictly for plot, Becoming Nicole is about a transgender girl who triumphed in a landmark discrimination case. . . . But the real movement in this book happens internally, in the back caverns of each family member's heart and mind. Four ordinary and imperfect human beings had to reckon with an exceptional situation, and in so doing also became, in their own modest ways, exceptional. . . . If you aren't moved by Becoming Nicole, I'd suggest there's a lump of dark matter where your heart should be."
  • Time "A transgender girl's coming-of-age saga, an exploration of the budding science of gender identity, a civil rights time capsule, a tear-jerking legal drama and, perhaps most of all, an education about what can happen when a child doesn't turn out as his or her parents expected--and they're forced to either shut their eyes and hearts or see everything differently."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "Extraordinary . . . a wonderful and inspiring story."
  • NBC New York "A downright necessary book--and a remarkable act of generosity by the Maines family--that will surely start hundreds of conversations in living rooms across the country about what 'transgender' means. But it's also a deeply universal book, one that hits the heart of what it means for all of us, no matter how we struggle (or not) to identify, to be ourselves."--BuzzFeed "Gorgeous . . . a really wonderful story."
  • Jennifer Finney Boylan, co-chair of GLAAD and author of She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders "Becoming Nicole is a miracle. It's the story of a family struggling with--and embracing--a transgender child. But more than that, it's about accepting one another, and ourselves, in all our messy, contradictory glory. The Maines family is as American as they come. In the journey they take toward authenticity and justice, we see a model for the future of our country, a future in which all of us--mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters--somehow find the courage, and the love, to become our best selves."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Gripping . . . a timely, significant examination."
  • Philadelphia "This poignant account of a transgender girl's transition offers a heartfelt snapshot of a family whose only objective is to protect their daughter. Tackling the subject from a biological, social, and psychological viewpoint, Pulitzer-winning reporter Nutt . . . succeeds in placing Nicole's individual story within the more general narrative of transgender rights in the United States and humanizes the issues currently at play."--Publishers Weekly "[Shows how one] family took precious steps in order to understand, support, and celebrate differences that make us all unique. If you want to get a look into a family that has made great strides to change the way some people think about the American nuclear family, and accept the beauty of the world around us, definitely buy this book."

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