Book Review: The Secrets of my Life by Caitlyn Jenner
Ok, I admit it: I’m a closet Kardashians fan. A while back I reviewed Khloe Kardashian’s book, Strong Looks Better Naked. I’ve not read any of the other Kardashian books (I think there are quite a few now), but I was interested to read Caitlyn’s book. When stories first started emerging that Bruce was dressing as a woman, undergoing surgery to become a woman and so on, my first reaction was that either the press were making assumptions based on his long hair, or it was some sort of publicity stunt for the new season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Of course both of these reactions were incorrect; it turned out the tabloids were right this time. Like many people, I found it quite bonkers that this most-photographed, most-filmed, most-successfully publicised family now also had a trans woman who seemed to be quietly going about her business with more dignity than one might expect. Yes, there was a special about her transition, and she’s appeared a few times in the show since, but in a very different way.
When I saw that the book was out, I thought I’d give it a read. And you know what… it’s actually a very good read.
It’s a memoir rather than an autobiography, and it’s been written alongside Buzz Bissinger, which I like because the vast majority of celebrity memoirs/autobiographies are written by a ghostwriter who never gets credit. Bissinger is credited as coauthor, and Jenner mentions him at a couple of points in the book, explaining how he wrote another article about her and did such a good job of it, he seemed the obvious choice to help with the book.
It was refreshing to find that this book was not a “my life with the Kardashians tell all” – it barely mentions them. It’s also not a typical life story. It skips back and forth between the present day and the story of Bruce growing up and eventually becoming Caitlyn. It deals almost solely with Bruce’s gender issues, skipping over most other details. This makes it very easy to read, as I often find with celebrity autobiographies that by the end of chapter 3 when the celebrity is still only a toddler I’m thinking “I don’t care; get to the bit where the action happens!” That’s not to say it’s wall-to-wall celebrity anecdotes; it’s just the story of Bruce’s gender dysphoria and how that affected him over the years.
Caitlyn’s honesty throughout the book is weirdly refreshing. There are several points where Caitlyn says “I remember it like this; my ex-wife/whoever remembers it like this.” As it’s her book, she could have left out the alternate viewpoints or even accused the other person of lying.
There is a relatively lengthy section about OJ and Nicole Brown Simpson, which I found a little odd, considering how little detail was given to other parts of the Bruce/Caitlyn story. I’m not sure that this section really fit in the book – though obviously it was interesting to read about the story from the point of view of someone who knew them both.
Some people may find it disappointing that this book doesn’t really give any “behind the scenes” gossip about the Kardashians TV show. Caitlyn mentions that her marriage began to break down as the show became successful, and mentions the endless streams of people traipsing in and out of the house – but doesn’t go into detail about things like deals or how things were set up etc. To be honest I found that quite nice as that would not be relevant to the overall story of the book.
At the end of the book Bissinger has written a short piece where he talks about his experience of writing the book with Caitlyn, and how she has a tendency towards painting herself as a victim which I thought was an interesting thing to keep in the book and adds to its overall authenticity.
This book is very well written, and an engaging read. It’s a fascinating insight into the life of Bruce, and then Caitlyn Jenner – as awkward school boy, college sports star, Olympic decathlon gold medalist, reality TV star and then famous trans woman.
The Secrets of my Life is available on Kindle, in hardback and paperback, or as audio download.
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Thanks for reading.