New book: Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, by Joy Ladin *00 (University of Wisconsin Press)
The author: A poet, Joy Ladin is the David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University. When in 2008 she returned to teach literature at Yeshiva University as a woman, after years teaching as a man, she made headlines. Ladin, who was Jay Ladin at Princeton, is the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution.
The book: In this memoir, Ladin shares her journey from living as a man to becoming a woman. She describes the pain of living as a man and wrestles with moral, spiritual, and philosophical questions of gender transition. “My gender identity crisis had destroyed my marriage, shattered my family, and turned me into an unwelcome stranger in my own home. … My children were grief stricken, angry, and baffled by the double blow of losing their happy family and the strange transformation of the father they loved,” writes Ladin.
Opening lines of the introduction: “It was a beautiful New York September day, sunny, warm but not hot, with a sky so blue it seemed to laugh at the hard-nosed realism of skyscrapers thrusting into it. As I walked south from Grand Central to begin the fall 2008 semester at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, I smiled into every face I could, eager to share the fact that miracles can happen. I was a miracle, my walk was a miracle, and even the most dubious citizen of this most skeptical of cities would have to admit that the job toward which I was walking was a certifiable miracle.”
Review: Publishers Weekly called Through the Door of Life an “eloquent, bittersweet memoir.” The book, wrote the reviewer, “offers family and friends of transitioning people insight into the complexity of their loved ones’ motivations and struggles. Readers will be rewarded not only with an expanded understanding of a complicated choice but also a compelling and moving story of a person transitioning, not only from male to female but from a numb, suicidal ‘nonexistence’ to opening the ‘door of life.’”