Middlesex A Novel

Jeffrey Eugenides




Trade Paperback

544 Pages


Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
A New York Times Editors' Choice
A Los Angeles Times Best Book
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee
Lambda Literary Award Nominee

In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry blond classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them—along with Callie's failure to develop physically—leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

The explanation for this shocking state of affairs is a rare genetic mutation—and a guilty secret—that have followed Callie's grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family's second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene's epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun.

Spanning eight decades—and one unusually awkward adolescence—Jeffrey Eugenides' long-awaited second novel is a grand, original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire.


Praise for Middlesex

"Jeffrey Eugenides is a big and big-hearted talent, and Middlesex is a weird, wonderful novel that will sweep you off your feet."—Jonathan Franzen

"Impressive [and] wonderfully engaging . . . A Buddenbrooks-like saga that traces three generations' efforts to grapple with America and with their own versions of the American Dream . . . [Eugenides] has not only followed up on a precocious debut with a broader and more ambitious book, but in doing so, he has also delivered a deeply affecting portrait of one family's tumultuous engagement with the American 20th century . . . It is a novel that employs all its author's rich storytelling talents to give us one Greek-American family's idiosyncratic journey from the not-so-pearly gates of Ellis Island to the suburban vistas of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, while at the same time tracing the rise and fall in fortunes of Detroit, from its apotheosis as the Motor City in the 40's and 50's through the race riots of 1967 and its subsequent decline. It is also a novel that invokes ancient myths and contemporary pop songs to show how family traits and inclinations are passed down generation to generation, a novel that uses musical leitmotifs to show the unexpected ways in which chance and fate weave their improvisations into the loom of family life."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"One of the delights of Middlesex is how soundly it's constructed, with motifs and characters weaving through the novel's episodes, pulling it tight . . . His narrator is a soul who inhabits a liminal realm, a creature able to bridge the divisions that plague humanity, endowed with 'the ability to communicate between the genders, to see not with the monovision of one sex but in the stereoscope of both. That utopian reach makes Middlesex deliriously American; the novel's patron saint is Walt Whitman, and it has some of the shagginess of that poet's verse to go along with the exuberance. But mostly it is a colossal act of curiosity, of imagination and of love."—Laura Miller, The New York Times Book Review

"At last Detroit has its great novel. What Dublin got from James Joyce—a sprawling, ambitious, loving exasperated, and playful chronicle of all its good and bad parts—Detroit has from native son Eugenides."—Detroit Free Press

"A towering achievement . . . A story that manages to be both illuminating and transcendent . . . [Eugenides] has emerged as the great American writer many of us suspected him of being."—Jeff Turrentine, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Whatever you might be expecting, Middlesex will surprise you . . . a rolling epic . . . the kind of book that urges you to be read in one day, then reread."—Jonathan Safran Foer, Bomb

"Rollicking, gleefully inventive . . . Middlesex serves as a tribute to Nabokovian themes . . . Eugenides recounts the revelation of Callie's genetic abnormality through a series of near-discoveries that are amazingly, comically missed."—The Washington Post

"A big, cheeky, splendid novel, and its confidence is part of its success, because it goes places few narrators would dare to tread . . . Because Eugenides has imbued his second novel with transcontinental range and historical depth, he has thrown open the gates of Ithaca and sent his narrator on the road. And because he has remembered that the human experience of it is the sine qua non of any adventure, he has given us something lyrical and fine."—Gail Caldwell, The Boston Globe

"Middlesex is a novel about discovery, one man's discovery of his place in the world and acceptance of his singularity, his uniqueness. In the process, it is a novel that challenges our preconceptions about gender and our understanding of the universal truths of growing up and growing old."—Michael Pearson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Middlesex sweeps the reader along with easy grace and charm, tactfully concealing intelligence, sophistication, and the ache of earned wisdom beneath bushels of inventive storytelling . . . the novel's carefully studied casual look . . . [is] a little like Callie's mismatched features-'taken all together, something captivating emerged. An inadvertent harmony.'"—The New York Observer

"An Epic . . . This feast of a novel is thrilling in the scope of its imagination and surprising in its tenderness."—People

"[Middlesex is] one of the most impressive American novels . . . Eugenides has created a spirited, high-energy comic epic. At once remarkably readable, intelligent, and moving, Middlesex becomes that rare cultural hybrid, a page-turner that wows the critics."—Newsday

"A big book so wildly imagined . . . and yet so warm-hearted that it's hard to resist . . . it is frequently hilarious and touching."—USA Today

"An often affecting, funny, and deeply human book . . . a charming writer . . . Middlesex is enormously ambitious book, whose many stories do indeed gather to present a broad swath of Greek-American life."—The New Republic

"The verbal energy and narrative range of Saul Bellow's early fiction (say, The Adventures of Augie March) are born again in this dazzling novel . . . A virtuosic combination of elegy, sociohistorical study, and picaresque adventure: altogether irresistible."—Kirkus Reviews

“In his second novel, the author once again proves himself to be a wildly imaginative writer . . . Likely to hold readers in thrall with its affecting characterizations of a brave and lonely soul and its vivid depiction of exactly what it means to be both male and female.”—Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist

"Eugenides proves that he is not only a unique voice in modern literature but also well versed in the nature of the human heart. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"From the opening paragraph, in which the narrator explains that he was 'born twice,' first as a baby girl in 1960, then as a teenage boy in 1974, readers are aware that Calliope Stephanides is a hermaphrodite. To explain his situation, Cal starts in 1922, when his grandparents came to America. In his role as the 'prenatal narrator,' he tells the love story of this couple, who are brother and sister; his parents are blood relatives as well. Then he tells his own story, which is that of a female child growing up in suburban Detroit with typical adolescent concerns. Callie, as he is know then, worries because she hasn't developed breasts or started menstruating; her facial hair is blamed on her ethnicity, and she and her mother go to get waxed together. She develops a passionate crush on her best girlfriend, 'the Object,' and consummates it in a manner both detached and steamy. Then an accident causes Callie to find out what she's been suspecting—she's not actually a girl. The story questions what it is that makes us who we are and concludes that one's inner essence stays the same, even in light of drastic outer changes. Mostly, the novel remains a universal narrative of a girl who's happy to grow up but hates having to leave her old self behind. Readers will love watching the narrator go from Callie to Cal, and witnessing all of the life experiences that get her there."—School Library Journal

In the Press

Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Editor & Author: Jonathan Galassi and Jeffrey Eugenides
One of the most anticipated new books around the FSG offices (and out in the real world, I daresay) is Jeffrey Eugenides' follow-up to Middlesex.
Work in Progress » Blog Archive » How to Read a Novelist
Jeffrey Eugenides by John Freeman For the past fifteen years or so, whenever a novel has been published, John Freeman has been there to greet it. As a critic for over two hundred newspapers worldwide and onetime president of the NBCC, he's reviewed thousands of books and interviewed hundreds of authors.
"Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides -
This wondrous epic from the author of "The Virgin Suicides" travels from Mt. Olympus to Detroit to tell the story of an all-American hermaphrodite.
Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Jeffrey Eugenides on the Marriage Plot
At BookExpo America, the annual conference for booksellers, librarians and publishers, novelist Jeffrey Eugenides previewed The Marriage Plot, his much anticipated follow-up to Middlesex. (Astute Work in Progress readers may remember his conversation with editor Jonathan Galassi from our debut issue.


Read an Excerpt

MIDDLESEX (chapter 1)


I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr. Peter Luce's study, "Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites," published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you've seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated Genetics and Heredity. That's me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with

Read the full excerpt



  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Jeffrey Eugenides' novel Middlesex. In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school, Grosse Pointe, MI, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them--along with Callie's failure to develop--leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls.



  • Jeffrey Eugenides

  • Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1960, graduated from Brown University, and received an M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University in 1986. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published in 1993.
  • Jeffrey Eugenides Copyright Karen Yamauchi
    Jeffrey Eugenides




Download PDF



Go to website


Sign Up


Reading Group Guide