Jeffrey Eugenides's novel Middlesex (2002) focuses on the chronicle of forty-one-year-old, hermaphroditic Calliope Stephanides, which presents her multigenerational Greek-American family and her struggle to establish a clear sense of self. After opening with the story of her grandparents, Desdemona and Lefty, and their subsequent union, Cal traces the damaged gene that this brother and sister passed down through the generations to Cal, which causes her gender irregularity.
Cal weaves together the story of her grandparents and their descendents with her own, comparing the problems they faced in their efforts to reconcile their Greek heritage with their adopted U.S. culture to Cal's attempts to find balance between her female and male halves. She sets her epic story, which moves from 1922 to 2001, against a historical backdrop of change, from the Turkish invasion of Greece, through Prohibition, the Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. As her family gradually adapts to their new world, Cal is also able to find a way to accept the duality of her own experience. Eugenides's ability to find the humor as well as the tragedy in their stories creates a compelling work that celebrates difference as well as community.
To avoid confusion, the narrator and main character in Middlesex is referred to here as "Cal" and the pronoun "she."
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