new england literary news

An identical twin boy’s transformation into a girl

Jonas and Nicole (formerly Wyatt)
photos by Kelly Campbel
Jonas and Nicole (formerly Wyatt).

A family transformed

Happily married and eager to start a family, Kelly and Wayne Maines adopted identical twin boys in 1997, naming them Jonas and Wyatt. By the time Wyatt was 3, he was enthralled with dolls and tutus and other items typically associated with girls.

As time passed, Kelly realized it wasn’t a phase Wyatt was going through. She learned the word “transgender” and started doing research so she could better understand her son. Wayne struggled to accept Wyatt. School officials and students in Orono, Maine, where the family was living, had a difficult time, too. Things got so bad that the family moved out of town.

“Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family” (Random House) by Amy Ellis Nutt is at times a harrowing tale, but ultimately it is a story of the triumph of love. There is fear, anger, conflict, and a groundbreaking lawsuit that mandated equal access for transgendered children in schools. Nutt was granted wide access to the Maines, interviewing them over the course of nearly four years. Nicole and Jonas are now in college.

Transgender profiles


The newly published “Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities” (Dartmouth) is an oral history of 34 people — including a police officer, a professor, a nurse, and a minister — who do not conform to the gender identity they were assigned at birth. The interviews by scholar and activist Jackson Wright Shultz are organized into a half-dozen chapters focused on personal safety, the shortcomings of vocabulary, and the difficulties of the transition experience.

Boston Book Festival

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Children’s author Louis Sachar of “Holes” fame and young-adult novelist Libba Bray, whose books merge the supernatural and the Roaring Twenties, are two of the keynote speakers at the seventh annual Boston Book Festival on Saturday. About 175 authors whose books encompass a variety of genres are on the schedule. For example, Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor at The New Yorker, and Chip Kidd, author of “Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts” (Abrams), will talk about humor, and retired US general Stanley McChrystal and Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter will discuss leadership. Also on tap are panel discussions about sportswriting, speculative science, and memoir.

The festival takes place at the Boston Public Library and other venues in the Back Bay. Throughout the day, literary magazines and book publishers will host displays of their wares on Copley Plaza. The schedule is at

Wharton’s ghost tours

Ghosts, Edith Wharton wrote, speak to humans in “the warm darkness . . . far below our conscious reason.” In addition to her novels and travelogues, the Pulitzer Prize winner wrote ghost stories. A collection of them was published in 1937, the year she died. The Mount, her Gilded Age estate in Lenox with its many rooms and servants’ quarters, is a perfect setting for the ghost tours offered this month. Stay alert for creaking sounds, whispered words, fading footsteps, and a tap on the shoulder. Ghost tours are being held on Friday, Saturday, Oct. 30, and 31. Tickets are $20-$24. Not recommended for children under 12. Details at

Coming Out

 “What You See”by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge)


 “Find a Way”by Diana Nyad (Knopf)

 “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States”by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead)

Pick of the Week

David Lampe-Wilson of Mystery on Main Street in Brattleboro, Vt., recommends “A Is For Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie” by Kathryn Harkup (Bloomsbury): “This celebration of all things lethal explores Christie’s science and her methods of death and detection. Harkup’s a chemist and knows her stuff. It’s a great read for Christie fans or anyone interested in forensic science.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at