The Unfinished Dollhouse: A Memoir of Gender and Identity by Michelle AlfanoThe Unfinished Dollhouse: A Memoir of Gender and Identity by Michelle Alfano

The Unfinished Dollhouse: A Memoir of Gender and Identity

byMichelle Alfano

Paperback | October 21, 2017

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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.

There is no memoir like The Unfinished Dollhouse in the Canadian cultural landscape, a memoir by the mother of a transgender child.

Michelle Alfano is a Toronto writer whose fiction and non-fiction work has been published in Canada and in the United States. Her short story "Opera" was a finalist for the Journey Prize; Made Up of Arias, the novella based on that story, won the 2010 Bressani Award for Short Fiction. She is the former Associate Editor-in-Chief (Admini...
Title:The Unfinished Dollhouse: A Memoir of Gender and IdentityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:276 pages, 7.5 × 5 × 0.5 inPublished:October 21, 2017Publisher:Cormorant BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1770864989

ISBN - 13:9781770864986


Rated 4 out of 5 by from Rare, Honest Sharing of a Parent Emotionally complex and honest book. For anyone who wants to understand diversity and family dynamics, this book is a must-read.
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A beautifully written, insightful, honest memoir This book, a candid memoir, allows the reader to experience a much deeper understanding of the struggle some face in regards to gender identity, through the telling of her family’s emotional journey. The author’s honesty shines through, illuminating several important issues surrounding gender. One of the things I valued the most about this memoir, was that it challenged my own perspective. Thank you for the amazing read Michelle Alfano, and all I took away from it!
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read. This is a very important read for anyone who is a parent, but especially for those whose children are dealing with issues of identity. The author shows that parenting is loaded with conflicting emotions but the bottom line is, as a parent, your number one job is to love and support your child. Told honestly and beautifully, this book provides an important perspective for our times.
Date published: 2018-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An extremely thoughtful and sensitive memoir This is a very moving story of both the challenges and the joys of coming to terms with and then celebrating the evolving identity of your child. It's surely a must-read for ALL families.
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful story This is a story about a family's journey that is well told and honest. It is well worth reading.
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from . I hope my family supports me the same way.
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unconditional Love This story is full of beautiful description of human emotion - emotions we can all relate to - and in this instance described in a family coming to recognize a transgender child. Significantly, it is the story of unconditional love between parents and child and the dedication and will to find acceptance and calm.
Date published: 2017-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An emotional and very educational book Michelle writes with such emotion and at the same time educates us on the challenges in raising a transgender child. Everyone can learn a little bit about their children from reading this book. How do we really listen to our children and guide them to making the right choices at the right times. I absolutely loved her writing style, her honesty and openness on such a delicate subject is very much admired. Highly recommend it!
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Motherhood without a Manual Thank you Michelle Alfano for the courage it must have taken to write this memoir - not singularly about the journey of a mother with her transgender son, but about the essence of mothering, itself.
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A courageous and deeply moving work When we live through an expericence, or in this case what will be an entire life's process, that shatters our perceived structure of the world, we first die a little. In an Unfinished Dollhouse, Michelle Alfano pulls us into her own experience of raising a transgender son. As readers, we stand at times uncomfortably close as her imagined world of parenting a daughter explodes with the force of an atomic bomb. It is an imagined world we all share, at the very least, most of us. Slowly, and certainly painstakingly, through the sheer power of a mother's fierce love ... and fear...for her child, Alfano reshapes her imagined life to understand much more deeply what it means to be a daugher, a son, a mother, a family. In doing so, she and even the reader are more than a little transformed. But the ending of the book is not the end of the story. It's clear that Alfano is not finished yet. After the closing pages, we are not only left with an unfinished dollhouse, but also an unfinished sense of how we are what it is possible for us to become.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A journey you won't soon forget I read this book in 2 days and couldn't put it down. The story is honest and heartfelt. This is a pure gut-wrenching ride into the unknown. Raw honesty and vulnerability mark every page and anyone with a heart will relate to this story. This is a story of dreams, expectations, attachment, mourning, struggle, confusion, reflection, fear, faith and above all love. If you look closely, this is also a commentary and a much-needed opening for conversations about a great many things that suffer from non-conversation. You don't have to be a mother to love this book and learn from it. This is a very human story and an insightful, educational journey you won't soon forget.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Courage, honesty, love Any memoir takes courage to write and to publish. This memoir is to be commended for its brutal honesty as a family comes to terms with a transgender child. It is written with a great deal of love and affection as the author says goodbye to a much-loved daughter and greets a much-loved son. It is brave and moving and above all loving.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Courageous. Raw. Beautiful. A book that is ultimately about the power of love, acceptance and the understanding of one's own truth.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memoir of a Loving Family I could not put The Unfinished Dollhouse down. It is a fascinating memoir of a loving family.
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I couldn't put it down! Michelle Alfano's account of her evolution through her son's transition is open, raw and honest. She writes from her heart and holds nothing back. This memoir shines a light on what it means to raise a transgender child, and all the fears, insecurities, vulnerabilities and worries that go along with it. It's definitely a must read for anyone learning to navigate gender identity, or individuals who want to understand something that is gaining visibility. I applaud the author's triumphs and trials, her willingness to speak her truth, and especially her fierce love for her son. I highly recommend The Unfinished Dollhouse!
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Moving Memoir This memoir documents Michelle Alfano’s difficult and ultimately empowering journey to come to terms with her child’s transition to become a Transboy/man. Although Michelle struggles to let go of the fantasy of the life she thought she would lead when she married Rob and gave birth to her daughter, she eventually comes to realize that if she clings to her fantasy, not only will “she cause irreparable damage to her relationship” with Frankie, but, by not letting Frankie go down this path, she will ultimately “destroy her child.” Michelle’s journey to acceptance involves many different stages each which comes with its own unique challenges: remembering to use the new pronouns of “he” and “him,” to dealing with the loss of the name she gave Frankie at birth which has a special significance for her, or the loss of the photos on display in the house of Frankie as a young person, to adjusting to the physical changes in appearance and clothing, the testosterone injections, and eventually top surgery. We also learn just how great the burden is for a transgender youth to keep their identity a secret. In Frankie’s case, the secret affected: “appetite, energy level, school attendance, involvement with the family, sports activity, social life, and maintenance of his friendships.” Conversely, Frankie’s “unburdening immediately had a salutary effect on him – in terms of his physical and mental health, his school attendance, his grades, social activities and his engagement with the outside world.” Easily, the most moving part of the memoir is the fierce love both parents demonstrate for Frankie time and time again. They are determined to do whatever it takes to ensure their child is thriving and remains that way. Finally, Michelle makes it abundantly clear that as parents, they are not the heroes for accepting Frankie’s transition. Frankie is the hero: “Frankie, did choose, bravely, to try and live an open and honest life. He is trying to live a life that is true to his inner desires and feelings.” I highly recommend this memoir!
Date published: 2017-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All too rare... Poignant and heartfelt. Moving and beautifully written. Michelle Alfano's account of her relationship with her child, Frankie, her chronicle of her all too human reactions as a mother and growth is inspiring whether you are a parent or a child. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It’s not always pretty, or pink Michelle Alfano is fearless in letting us in on her journey of discovery, grappling first with the unknowns then navigating a convoluted search for ways to help Frankie along the best possible path. Anyone who has had to deal with adversity concerning a child, or any loved one, will relate with the roller-coaster of emotions chronicled in The Unfinished Dollhouse. It’s not always pretty, or pink, but it’s life, and it’s love.
Date published: 2017-01-13