For decades I kept Denise in the closet. Then I kept Dennis in the closet.

Denise DuBois’s transformation into a woman wasn’t easy. Born as a boy into a working-class Polish American Milwaukee family, she faced daunting hurdles: a domineering father, a gritty 1960s neighborhood with no understanding of gender nonconformity, trouble in school, and a childhood so haunted by deprivation that neckbone soup was a staple. Terrified of revealing her inner self, DuBois lurched through alcoholism, drug dealing and addiction, car crashes, dangerous sex, and prison time. Dennis barreled from Wisconsin to California, Oregon, Canada, Costa Rica, New York, Bangkok, and Hawaii on a joyless ride.

Defying all expectations, DuBois didn’t crash and burn. Embracing her identity as a woman, she remade herself. Writing with resolute honesty and humor, she confronts both her past and her present to tell an American story of self-discovery. 

When I’m dealt a bad day or find myself contemplating the what if’s of my future, I am so glad that the biggest what if no longer plagues me or breaks my stride. I’m Denise. That in and of itself makes me feel like fortune’s favorite daughter.

Read or download an excerpt of the book.

Self-Made Woman: A Memoir
by Denise Chanterelle DuBois
$26.95; 218 pages
ISBN: 978-0-299-31390-6, Cloth
Published by University of Wisconsin Press
September 2017

Available where all fine books are sold.