Q&A With Jeffery Eugenides
While reading the book Middlesex, I felt quite an intense connection with the story's protagonist, who starts her life as a girl but realizes that she is quite different. As we read more, we learn that while she may be of both sexes, her story really is one that most people can relate to. Callopie's story involves many of the matters we as adolescents faced or face. Sexual identity, finding out who we really are and our true selves. What touched me most while reading Middlesex was that I read it when I was 14, so many of the character's struggles came close to home. So I will ask you this question: What inspired you to create a story where the narrator is one you wouldn't see in most books these days?
— Ben S.
For some reason I want to say, "Dear Ben," possibly because your question is intimate and so requires an intimate response, but also because your question makes me happy and warrants a proper thank-you note. Your reading of Middlesex is the reading I'd hoped people would have. It was never my intention to write a book about a "freak." I didn't see Calliope as unfortunate or even unusual. Consider Greek mythology. The tales of Zeus turning himself into a bull in order to seduce Europa, or of Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection, are fanciful. But they aren't inhuman. We recognize ourselves—our impulses, weaknesses, longings—in the Greek myths. You could say, then, that Middlesex is a modern myth. It's a modern myth about adolescence. What Calliope goes through is what we all go through, in the maelstrom of puberty. Her experience of the process, physically and psychologically, is merely more dramatic than our own. Callie's life differs from ours in degree but not in kind. So you saying that Calllie's "story is one that most people can relate to" is exactly right. Or at least, it's precisely what I'd hoped for.
— Jeffrey Eugenides