Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family by Amanda Jetté Knox
All Amanda Jetté Knox ever wanted was to enjoy a stable life. She never knew her biological father, and while her mother and stepfather were loving parents, the situation was sometimes chaotic. While still a teenager, she met the love of her life. They were wed at 20, and the first of three children followed shortly. Jetté Knox finally had the stability she craved–or so it seemed. Their middle child struggled with depression and avoided school. The author was unprepared when the child she knew as her son came out as transgender at the age of eleven. Jetté Knox became an ardent advocate for trans rights.
For many years, the author had coped with her spouse’s moodiness, but that chronic unhappiness was taking a toll on their marriage. A little over a year after their child came out, her partner also came out as transgender. Knowing better than most what would lie ahead, Jetté Knox searched for positive examples of marriages surviving transition. When she found no role models, she determined that her family would become one.
The shift was challenging, but slowly the family members noticed that they were becoming happier and more united. Love Lives Here is a story of transition, frustration, support, acceptance, and, of course, love.
4.5 stars, rounded to five
I really enjoyed this book! As a disclaimer, I am cis, so this review will come from my cis perspective. I tried to seek out reviews by trans reviewers, but I really couldn’t find any on Goodreads, so if you know of any, please let me know.
Also, this review is going to be a little disjointed, because I don’t have a ton to elaborate on for the positives, but I have a lot to say for the negatives. Not that I have more negatives than positives, just that I have more to say about the negatives.
So let’s get the positives out of the way. I think this book is a really great example of how a family can successfully transition. It discusses how they were successful, but also what struggles they had, which I think are really important to talk about. If a trans person was worried about coming out to their family or partner, I think this book would give a pretty good look at what to expect.
I listened to the audiobook for this, and definitely recommend it. It’s narrated by the author, and I think makes the story more personal and engaging. Additionally, it was written in a very casual yet engaging way, which makes it much more approachable and personal.
Okay, so on to the negatives/criticisms/discussions. One thing I was hesitant about is the fact that Knox is cis, and this book is (obviously) about trans women and Knox’s family. I was worried it would come across a lot as a cis person talking over trans people. But I actually think Knox does a really great job avoiding this. Whenever possible, she discusses what her daughter and wife were going through from their perspective. She never talks for them. She also notes that she’s the writer in her family; her daughter is still relatively young and writing doesn’t seem to be something her wife is interested in, so it made sense for her to write the book. Knox also never deadnames her daughter or wife, and never refers to them as her son or husband. When she’s talking about them pre-transition, she’ll say things like “my spouse”, “my second child”, “the person I thought was my husband”, “the woman trying to be the man the world saw her as”. So overall, I thought it was well done for a book about trans issues written by a cis person.
I do have a couple small issues with the book. First is that Knox seems to still retains a lot of binary thoughts with regards to gender roles and a lot of unconscious misogyny. For example, she talks about how proud she was to be a “boy mom” and how different it is parenting boys and girls. I can tell she’s working through these thoughts, and she briefly (very briefly) mentions non-binary people, and I don’t think she could be as immersed in trans activism as she is and not encounter non-binary people. But, the ingrained gender roles are still there, and I wish this book explored gender identity outside of the binary a little more.
Another thing that I know bothered a few readers is Knox’s “look at well I did/how awesome I am/my family is” attitude that is sometimes present in the book. I agree that she comes across like this sometimes; HOWEVER, this book is literally about how her family was successful and how their activism has helped other people. Talking about your successes is always going to come across that way to some people. So while it didn’t bother me, I know it is something that bothers other readers and is maybe just something to be aware of.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book. It was super interesting and engaging, and gave a really important perspective on trans families.
But those are just my thoughts! Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Do you plan on reading it? Have you read similar books? Let me know!