Jennifer Finney Boylan is a widely praised author and professor. She is an activist for LGBT people in general and trans men and women in particular, through her writing as well as through her involvement as a director of GLAAD. She supports the expansion of our scientific understanding of gender through her service on the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute. And she advocates for storytellers of all stripes, in part through her support of the PEN American Center, and, above all, through her work with her students at Colby College in Maine, where she has been part of the English Department for twenty-five years.
Edward Albee summed up her oeuvre in 1988: — “Boylan observes carefully, and with love. [Her] levitating wit is wisely tethered to a humane concern…. I often broke into laughter, and was now and again, struck with wonder.”
Jenny is the author of thirteen books– three novels, a collection of short stories, three memoirs, and six young adult books, four of them written under a pseudonym. Her most recent published work is STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU, a memoir about the differences between fatherhood and motherhood, which was published in April of 2013, . Stuck in the Middle holds that “having a father who became a mother has helped my sons, in turn, become better men.”
Jenny’s memoir, She’s Not There, published by Doubleday in 2003, was one of the first bestselling works by a transgendered American; until 2001 she published under the name James Boylan. She’s Not There, was released in a new and expanded edition in April 2013, and now contains a new preface, and two new afterwords– one written by JFB, bringing the story up to date, and one written by Jenny’s wife “Grace,” about the couple’s lives together and the love she and Jenny share. SNoT is popular both as a textbook in high schools and colleges as well as with readers’s groups. The paperback edition contains a “readers guide” in addition to the main text, which consists not only of Jenny’s insights on “a life in two genders” but also includes an afterword by Pultizer Prize winner Richard Russo, whose friendship with James, and later with Jennifer, provides part of the books narrative.
She’s Not There won an award from the Lambda LIterary Foundation in 2004, the year after its initial publication. The book has since been published in many foreign editions, and was an alternate selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. Anna Quindlen called it “a very funny memoir of growing up confused, and a very smart consideration of what it means to be a woman.” In 2009 she received the Stonewall Legacy Award from the University of Massachusetts, for the “contribution she has made to the lives of GLBT individuals.”
Her 2008 memoir, I’m Looking Through You, is about growing up in a haunted house. While trans issues form part of the exposition of the book, the primary focus of I’m Looking Through You is on what it means to be “haunted,” and how we all seek to find peace with our various ghosts, both the supernatural and the all-too-human.
Jenny has been a frequent guest on a number of national television and radio programs, including three visits to the Oprah Winfrey Show. She has also appeared on the Larry King Show, The Today Show, the Barbara Walters Special, and been the subject of a documentary on CBS News’ 48 Hours. She has also appeared on a wide range of local and syndicated television shows, as well as NPR’s Marketplace and the Diane Rehm show. In 2007 she played herself on two episodes of ABC’s “All My Children.” She has spoken widely around the country on gender and imagination, at venues including the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and the New Jersey State Theatre. She has given plenary and keynote speeches at conferences on diversity and scholarship around the country, and at colleges and universities including Amherst, Yale, Wesleyan, Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia, Vanderbilt, Duke, Bucknell, Johns Hopkins, Dickinson, Bates, Skidmore, Bowdoin, Ohio State, Middlebury, Gettysburg, the Univeristy of Maine, Georgia State, the University of Puget Sound, and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. She has spoken at law firms, at corporate events, and at bookstores from Seattle to Vermont.
Her nonfiction has appeared on the op/ed pages of the New York Times, in GQ magazine, Allure, and Glamour. She is also an ongoing contributor to Conde Nast Traveler magazine; her most recent work there was on St. Kitts and Nevis, published in the January 2009 issue. Her story on the graveyards of New England appeared in the October 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living. (More information on her nonfiction work is available here, including links to the pieces themselves.)
Boylan’s first book, a collection of stories entitled Remind Me To Murder You Later, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1988. Her first novel, The Planets, was published in 1991 by Poseidon Press. (Simon and Schuster). Loosely based upon the classical piece of music by Gustav Holst, The Planets followed the lives of several fictional characters in the real town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, which has been afflicted by an underground coal fire since the early 1960s.
Her second novel, The Constellations follows the lives of several of the characters from The Planets, some of whom flee from angry cows, discover a latex brain, and begin a life of dognapping.
Her 1997 novel, Getting In, published by Warner Books, focused on four high school students who go on quests to get into college. The novel was optioned for film by Renny Harlin and Geena Davis, and Jenny was tapped to write the initial screenplay for New Line Cinema.
From 2009-2011, Jenny was on the national screening committee of the Fulbright Scholarships, administered by the International Institute for Education, and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Born in 1958 in Valley Forge, Boylan grew up in Newtown Square and Devon, Pennsylvania.
She graduated from Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut) in 1980. From there she moved to New York, where she was the managing editor of American Bystander magazine, the short-lived “American Punch” founded by the first cast of “Saturday Night Live” and an ad- hoc group of New Yorker cartoonists and SCTV actors and writers. Upon the demise of American Bystander in 1982, Boylan became an editorial assistant at Viking/Penguin, working for the managing editor of the Viking Press. Boylan followed with a stint as the production editor of the fiction line at E.P. Dutton until 1985.
In late 1986, Boylan began a master’s program at the Writing Seminars of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where she worked with John Barth, Edward Albee, Doris Grumbach and John Irwin. She taught at Johns Hopkins for several years after getting her degree, and then joined the faculty at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where she has been ever since.
Since 1988, Jenny Boylan has been a professor of creative writng and American literature at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine. Boylan was a visiting professor at University College Cork, Ireland, in 1998-99. She was promoted to the rank of full Professor in May of 2001, and was chosen by students as the Charles Walker Bassett “Professor of the Year” in 2000. At Colby she has served as Co-chair of English (2002-4), Director of Creative Writing (2005-07, and 2012-14) and Associate Chair of English (1996-98).
In 2010, Jenny served as the Hoyer-Updike Distinguished Visiting Creative Writer an appointment at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, named to honor the writers John Updike and his mother, Linda Grace Hoyer, for the contributions they made to American letters.
Jenny currently serves on the boards of two nonprofits: she is on the Board of Directors of GLAAD, serving as Secretary to the Executive Committee; and also is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
The Boylan family maintains two endowments. The Boylan prize at Wesleyan University is a small fund to honor distinction in undergraduate creative writing. The J. Richard Boylan scholarship at Johns Hopkins University provides major funding for undergraduate scholarship in the Humanities at JHU in Baltimore.
Jennifer Finney Boylan lives in rural Maine with her family. Jenny has been married to Deirdre “Grace” Finney since 1988; their sons Zach and Sean turned 20 and 18 in 2014. (The boys were instrumental in the creation of the Falcon Quinn series.) The Boylans’ lives revolve around soccer, fiddle, the French horn, big meals, two black labs named Indigo and Ranger, and, of course, each other.