Synopses & Reviews
"Theres no news like hearing irrefutable proof that youre not the sole cause of your parents' woes, your father's drinking, your unshakable feeling that youre not put together quite right and finding out the problem all along was your father's unrequited yearning for angora."
--Noelle Howey from Dress Codes
Throughout her childhood in suburban Ohio, Noelle struggled to gain love and affection from her distant father. In compensating for her fathers brusqueness, Noelle idolized her nurturing tomboy mother and her conservative grandma who tried to turn her into "a little lady." At age 14, Noelle's mom told her the family secret straight out: "Dad likes to wear womens clothes."
As Noelle copes with a turbulent adolescence, further confused by the male and female role models she had as a girl, her father begins to metamorphose into the loving parent she had always longed for--only now outfitted in pedal pushers and pink lipstick. Could becoming a woman make her father a completely different person? With edgy humor, courage, and remarkable sensitivity, Noelle Howey challenges all of our beliefs in what constitutes gender and a "normal" family.
"In this rich memoir, Howey details not one life, but three. It's a difficult juggling act, but it pays off beautifully, for the story of her father's coming out as a male-to-female transsexual is only part of a larger narrative of growing up female in America. Howey's writing is neither sensationalistic nor condescendingly cheery; this is a loving portrait of a girl's complicated relationship to her father's femininity and her own." Publisher's Weekly
"Readers will both laugh and wince at the numerous issues Howey and her family have to come to terms with as they learn to grow both individually and as a family. Howey...details her own evolution along with her family's with honesty, grace, and wit." Sheila Devaney, Library Journal
"[T]he book has incredible depth and a believable honesty that transport the topics of gender dysphoria and sexual coming-of-age beyond sensationalism....With her sharp humor and sensitivity, Howey manages to entertain, console, and enlighten readers. The book is impossible to ignore, and impossible to put down." Sheila Shoup, School Library Journal
"A startlingly candid account of growing up with a father who changed from an undemonstrative, unhappy male to a warm, affectionate lesbian....this moving portrait of a nontraditional family both educates and entertains." Kirkus Reviews
"[R]arely has the true value of family been so movingly and lovingly evoked as it is in Dress Codes." John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl
"With disarming honesty and startling lucidity Noelle Howey beautifully weaves together the stories of three people coming into themselves." Thisbe Nissen, author of The Good People of New York
"Noelle Howey's story is astonishing for the skill, perception and integrity with which it is told...both funny and entertaining." Amy Wilensky, author of Passing for Normal: A Memoir of Compulsion
About the Author
is the co-editor of Out of the Ordinary: Essays on Growing Up with Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Parents,
winner of two 2000 Lambda Literary Awards. She has also written for Ms., Jane, Mother Jones, Teen People, Bitch, Mademoiselle,
A finalist for a GLAAD Media Award, she received a 2001 Nonfiction Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. An Ohio native, Noelle Howey lives in Minneapolis with her husband.