Cover image for Trans
Raz, Hilda.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Middletown, Conn. : Wesleyan University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
86 pages ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3568.A97 T7 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Winner of the Nebraska Center for the Book's Nebraska Book Award for poetry (2002)

This elegant and moving collection grew out of Hilda Raz's experience with her son's journey to a transgender identity. Born Sarah, now Aaron, Raz's child has had a profound impact on her understanding of what it means to be a family, to be whole, and to know oneself. The collection moves between past and present, allowing Raz to reflect on her own childhood, and on her experience with breast cancer to find ways to connect with Aaron. The journey takes us from intimacy to strangeness and back again, from denial to humor to grief and rage, but always laced with love and acceptance.

"Trans" means across, through, over, to or on the other side, and beyond. The book documents some major transformations of body, self, society and spirit that art requires and life allows. The poems themselves are accessible and finely wrought. They are equally testaments to Raz's insistence on making an order out of chaos, of finding ways to create and understand and eventually accept new definitions of self and family. The physical and sensuous language of Raz's poems, and their humanity, keep them intimately bound to the world and to the senses.

Author Notes

Hilda Raz is a poet, critic and Professor of English at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, where she is also Editor-in-Chief of the literary journal, Prairie Schooner. She is author of Divine Honors (Wesleyan, 1997) and editor of Living on the Margins: Women Writers on Breast Cancer (1999), The Best of Prairie Schooner: Personal Essays, with Kate Flaherty (2000), and The Best of Prairie Schooner: Poetry and Fiction (2001).

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Raz's varied and serious new collection plays a range of styles while sticking closely to the poet's life. About half the volume describes Raz's troubled, but finally heartwarming, experience with her daughter "Sarah," who changed her sex to become Raz's adult son "Aaron." Other poems examine Raz's extended family she is especially good on the very old (in a shocking poem set in a nursing home) and on maternity and childbirth. Raz (Divine Honors) has long taught English at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where she edits the journal Prairie Schooner; some vivid verse describes the Nebraska landscape and its hardscrabble citizens. Whether she writes of Aaron or Sarah, funerals or fields, Raz's tone remains sincere and open: "Nothing to explain, no shield," she writes, "of paperthin skin between history and the untender world." Raz employs, among other devices, the hortatory intimacy of '70s confessionalism; the expansive verse-paragraphs of an Albert Goldbarth or a Deborah Digges; and a more disjunctive approach, often expressed in couplets or short prose poems. Many lines seem over-the-top; some are mawkish: "you, for all we've been through,/ are identical genetically to the daughter you were." Raz does better with terser, harsher verse, as in "Doing the Puzzle/Angry Voices," where "Every book that documents birth/ puts on to gender a meaning./ That piece of the junco tree is filled with sparrows." Always articulate and sometimes well-crafted, the volume relies too heavily on its subjects, yet its pleasures, like its concerns, are genuine. (Oct.) Forecast: Raz's principal subject her child's transsexualism gives the book an obvious publicity angle, and perhaps a niche audience as well (not transgender people, but their families). Her longtime presence at Prairie Schooner, for which she has edited "Best of" anthologies, and her editorship of Living on the Margins: Women Writers on Breast Cancer (2001), have given her a solid reputation. Throw in a public radio appearance or glossy magazine mention, and the book could take off. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

What subject could be harder for a mother to document than her daughter's sex-change operation? "Aaron is glad to be rid of breasts. I look/ in the mirror and see nothing familiar,/ scars and absence." Some of the strongest poems in this collection by poet and anthologizer Raz (Living on the Margins: Women Writers on Breast Cancer) focus on that transformation: "You're the one that had the sex change./ I've always been as I am." Sometimes Raz captures the pain, grief, and acceptance beautifully, but other times, as in "Prelude," she avoids the specificity she needs to translate this experience into art: "I'm here, child, your absolute company/ as you are changed radically from one thing to another." The poems on other topics youth, writing workshops in a Mennonite community, and, particularly, the Wonder Woman poems can seem out of place. However, a series of poems on medical topics do fit in, including one on a heart transplant operation, another on breast cancer, and the final poem about the death of a friend's mother. Though readers will focus on the transgender poems, Raz writes most evocatively when she either celebrates the flesh or catalogs what can go wrong with it. Recommended for larger collections. Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.