Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.
Every once in a while you’re lucky enough to read a book that changes the way you see the world. Amanda Jette Knox’s Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family is that kind of book for me.
Love Lives Here is a kind of family memoir, as Knox recounts the kind of childhood and adolescence she had, of meeting her spouse when she was still a teenager, of the obstacles they faced as a young married couple with a small child. How when their second child was 11, they emailed their parents to tell them that she was a girl and that she hoped they would still love her. How Knox and her spouse went into their daughter’s room and held her and the next day started the work of becoming her champions, learning everything they needed to be effective and respectful. And how a few years after that, her spouse, someone who seemed to live under a perpetual cloud, who would get quiet or snappish or seem distant from the rest of the family, told Amanda that they were also transgender. Which is when Knox had to work through her own feelings about her sexuality and whether she still wanted to be married to a woman.
Admittedly this is an oversimplification of the book. As I was reading it, I realized that I had actually read part of this story before. A couple of years ago, I came across the Buzzfeed story of Amanda’s wife’s first day at work as a trans woman. Zoe had been coming out to family and friends slowly but hadn’t at work yet. On her first day, her co-workers threw her a party to welcome her. It was an uplifting story that showed how small gestures can make a big impact.
Love Lives Here tells so much more of the story. And what I was struck with the most about this book is the love that is on every single page. The first time I started crying reading this book was on page three. PAGE THREE. That really set the tone for the rest of the experience. I cried A LOT while reading this. But almost never were they sad tears. I cried as Knox describes her daughter blossoming, finally happy to be recognized as the young woman she is. I cried as Knox grapples with her perceived shortcomings, realizing that in order to be the most effective advocate for her child, she needed to confront her own prejudices and blind spots. I cried when Knox celebrates her wife, realizing that her attraction to this person has always been about the feminine energy she carries. I cried when she writes about recommitting to her wife, about how beautiful her wife is in everything she puts on because she’s basically a model.
This family, you guys. They are wonderful. So wonderful that they became foster parents to their daughter’s friend and just multiplied the love in their family that much more. I’m so grateful that the Knox family shared their story. I don’t want to make it seem like this was an easy thing for Amanda or Zoe or their children and friends. There were dark days, friends who walked out of their lives, other parents who were not nice to their child (I just want to emphasize that these adults were sh*tty to a CHILD), ideas of what their family looked like that they had to change. All of it took work and educating themselves and probably therapy. But mostly, it was about love. Love of their child, love for each other.
Everyone should read this book. It will change you, it will move you, it will inspire you. It’s one that I’m going to be putting in the hands of others for a very long time.