The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Gay & Lesbian Interest / Gender Studies / Judaica

Through the Door of Life
A Jewish Journey between Genders
Joy Ladin

Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies
David Bergman, Joan Larkin, and Raphael Kadushin, Series Editors

· 2012 Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award for Biography, Autobiography, or Memoir
· Finalist, Transgender Nonfiction, Lambda Literary Awards
· Selection, Over the Rainbow Project, GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association

“On the face of it, Through the Door of Life is the story of how Jay Ladin, the author and an English professor at Yeshiva University in New York City, transitioned into living as Joy Ladin. But it’s Ladin’s relationship with Judaism that anchors this book and makes it stand out. . . . Orthodox Jewish leaders should thank Ladin for refusing to hide out, for reminding us how human beings should relate to one another.”
The Huffington Post

Professor Jay Ladin made headlines around the world when, after years of teaching literature at Yeshiva University, he returned to the Orthodox Jewish campus as a woman—Joy Ladin. In Through the Door of Life, Joy Ladin takes readers inside her transition as she changed genders and, in the process, created a new self.

With unsparing honesty and surprising humor, Ladin wrestles with both the practical problems of gender transition and the larger moral, spiritual, and philosophical questions that arise. Ladin recounts her struggle to reconcile the pain of her experience living as the “wrong” gender with the pain of her children in losing the father they love. We eavesdrop on her lifelong conversations with the God whom she sees both as the source of her agony and as her hope for transcending it. We look over her shoulder as she learns to walk and talk as a woman after forty-plus years of walking and talking as a man. We stare with her into the mirror as she asks herself how the new self she is creating will ever become real.

Ladin’s poignant memoir takes us from the death of living as the man she knew she wasn’t, to the shattering of family and career that accompanied her transition, to the new self, relationships, and love she finds when she opens the door of life.

   Photo © Lisa Ross
Portrait of author Joy LadinJoy Ladin, the David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, is the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox Jewish institution. She is the author of six books of poetry, including, The Definition of Joy and Coming to Life.


“This is an emotionally intense, deeply personal memoir of self-discovery.”
Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

“Not only a memoir of transgender experience, it’s also a story of family heartbreak and family love; of growth as a teacher and writer; and, not least, of a self deeply connected to God and Judaism throughout a life lived across genders.”
—Rabbi Jill Hammer, author of The Jewish Book of Days and Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion

“In painstakingly and painfully constructing her new self, Ladin is fully aware of the societal conventions and privileges of which she makes use. . . . But there seems to be a poignancy, of which Ladin is exquisitely aware, that precisely because what Ladin wants is so normal, her efforts to obtain it are so fraught with pain.”
Lambda Literary May 16, 2012

“Joy Ladin’s book succeeds so well because it is anything but a trans tract; it is a fierce story of regular old human life: hideous choices, endless repercussions, occasional glory, frequent humiliation, abiding difficulty. It could have happened to us. She makes us believe it.”
—Kay Ryan, former poet laureate of the United States, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry

“Joy Ladin’s lyrical and thoughtful new memoir. . . adds another before-and-after metaphor to the mix, yet its searing narrative undercuts any such simplifications.”
—Jay Michaelson for Lambda Literary
Read the full review here.

“An important book for anyone interested in gender, spirituality or the universal experience of feeling out of place.”
Next Magazine

Related Resouces

Book iconListen to Joy Ladin give a talk at Hebrew College.

Book iconListen to Joy Ladin on Interfaith Voices.

See also Joy Ladin’s TEDx Talk, “Ain’t I a Woman?”:


Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Of Related Interest:
The cover of Montlack's book is blue-green, with a fashion-model type woman superimposed on an extremely colorful butterfly wing.Autobiography of My Hungers
Rigoberto González
“An unforgettable portrait of the artist as a young immigrant gay poet. These brief, passionate chapters are filled with rare courage, raw honesty, and the uncommon beauty of a life spent yearning for consolation and hope. Absolutely arresting.” —Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire

Image is of Joy Ladin posing with arms crossed and smiling

October 2013
LC: 2011040974 PS
270 pp.   5 1/2 x 8 1/4

Book icon
Paper $19.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-28734-4
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Wisconsin edition not for sale in Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, and New Zealand

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