As of September 20, 2014 Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change has 30 reviews on Amazon with a 5 star rating. The memoir has 20 Goodreads reviews with 4.83 and 3.93 ratings (the book is listed twice on Goodreads).
Getting to Ellen was the subject of a wonderful Iowa Public Radio interview Ellen Krug gave on July 18, 2013. You can hear the interview in its entirety here.
In a piece titled, “Hidden treasures,” Mary Ann Grossmann of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes, “Ellen Krug explains the emotional journey from hard-driving male lawyer to more gentle Ellen in this touching and honest memoir….This book will not only take you into the mind and heart of someone who did something courageous, but it’s also really good writing.”
See Grossman’s full review here.
Kathleen Watson of Lavender Magazine writes, “Krug doesn’t simply let her memoir rest on the impact of a good story. Her prose is lyrical and effective; her words read like poetry. Each page is full of beautifully constructed insights. Each sentence is a literature-lover’s delight…Krug’s commitment to telling her story in the most artistic way possible makes her prose among the strongest I’ve experienced in a memoir genre….The message that self-awareness and authenticity should be our goal–and that our choices so often hold us back from becoming our authentic selves–is simple, pure, and universally relevant. Getting to Ellen will inspire readers, GLBT and non-GLBT alike, to look inward and strive for authenticity.”
See Watson’s full review here.
A review in the Lawyerist, a legal blog by Sam Glover, reads, “(Krug’s) transformation from tough-male-trial-lawyer to kind-female-public-interest-executive-director is, as you might imagine, pretty remarkable. And it makes for riveting reading….If you want an inspiring memoir that will make you cry, laugh, and think, pick up Getting to Ellen and read it this summer.”
See Glover’s blog piece in the Lawyerist here.
Customer reviews by Amazon readers have been quite fantastic. Phrases such as “powerful” “intense” “one of the best memoirs I have ever read” and “highly recommend” abound. You can access the Amazon reviews here.
Words–Other Published, Columns
Ellen Krug, author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change, is also a professional columnist who writes for the Twin Cities’ Lavender Magazine in an award-winning column titled Skirting the Issues and for ACCESSline, an Iowa-based LGBT monthly. Her columns span the human condition of a transgender person interacting with the everyday world. As of November, 2013, nearly 75,000 of her words have been published in various columns.
Ellen’s Skirting the Issues column received a 2013 Gold Award for Excellence from the Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association.
Here’s a sampling of her work:
“2013” (December 2013) accessed here
“Lily White” (November 2013) accessed here
“Two Questions” (October 2013) accessed here
“Song Whisperer” (September 2013) accessed at p.12 here
“Panties” (August 2013) accessed here
“Brainwashed” (August 2013) accessed here
“The White Knight” (August 2013) accessed here
“Human to Human” (June 2013) accessed here.
“Five Things” (June 2013) accessed here.
“Lily” (May 2013) accessed here.
“Anniversary” (March 2013) accessed here.
“Jake” (November 2012) accessed here.
April 29, 2013
I was reminded recently of the difference between regret and loss. If you’re a transgender person, or just someone struggling with authenticity–marriage isn’t working, the career is crap, “I don’t like living here”–then you know that you risk loss. In my view, the saying, “No pain no gain,” is meaningful because all growth in life involves some element of loss.
On the other hand, regret is an entirely different thing. When we regret, we suffer. When we regret, we take away from our core. When we regret, we commit suicide. And we hurt others.
Recently, I came across a wonderful article about the regrets of those who are dying. You can access the article here.
I lost much. In fact, I had just about everything that anyone could want in life. Except authenticity and living as myself. I understand and feel loss every day. I do not feel regret.
I welcome your comments.
April 2, 2013
I went home to Coe College last week for a book reading and to speak to students. I presented to two classes (an introduction to sociology class and a parent-child relationships class), where I talked about the concept of “self” and how, in my view, self is immutable. We’re born with a sense of self that’s determined the moment we take our first breath outside the womb. Our core–self–can either be nurtured or suppressed. Regardless, one’s self will always be in the driver’s seat.
In my case, I said, as much as I wanted to stay a man, and remain in love with my soul mate Lydia, I couldn’t suppress my true self–a female. I went on and explained that this isn’t about being GLBT; no, some of us are artists or we’re health care providers or missionaries or whatever. It’s about finding your true self and then allowing that person to prosper, to live without suppression.
The Coe students were excellent listeners and they threw me many good questions. The best question came after my reading when I was asked, “Now that you’ve transitioned and written your memoir, what else do you want, what else do you need?”
For some reason, the question caught me by surprise. I was quiet for a few seconds–so unusual for me–and then answered, “Nothing. I need nothing else other than me.”
It’s true, too. I have a sense of serenity and peace now, something that eluded me as a man. I am so thankful to have found this. I’m also grateful that I have the opportunity to talk to others about my journey and the lessons I’ve learned about self. There is a ripple effect here, and just maybe, someone who’s struggling will find meaning in my story. I know that at age 20, it might have made a huge difference to hear that it was okay to listen to the person inside–my self–who was pulling at me, You need to pay attention to this thing about you, this female thing.
Serenity and gratitude. How wonderful! That boy named Ed Krug who roamed the buildings of Coe College would never have understood.
March 18, 2013
I talked to someone the other day about “clarion calls”–something that rouses us, that motivates us into action. At about the same time, I rediscovered an old CD from 1993, the soundtrack from the movie, Philadelphia, which starred Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. The signature theme song from that movie was “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen.
I popped the CD into my mini stereo and hit the “play” button. A few seconds later, I heard the “thump, thump, thump” that begins Springsteen’s song. Instantly, I was back in 1993, walking out of a Cedar Rapids movie theater, overwhelmed by what I had just seen. It was a movie about lawyers beating up lawyers, but then winning through sheer grit and tenacity. I was a lawyer and I identified oh so well.
More importantly, Philadelphia was the first mainstream movie to tackle AIDS, and along with it, the battle of being gay and different, and all the issues that flow from that. As such, it became my clarion call, the thing that motivated me to really begin thinking about who I really was.
I went out and bought the Philadelphia soundtrack and played it near daily for weeks. Each time I heard Springsteen’s voice, as well as Neil Young’s haunting melody, Philadelphia, I began to think. Do I have the kind of courage that Tom Hanks’ character had in the movie? More importantly, I wondered, Will I ever be able to live as my true self–this person inside me whom I don’t fully understand, but who’s struggling to come out anyway?
Not long after hearing my clarion call, I started therapy for the first time in my life. Seven therapists and seventeen years of therapy later, I transitioned from “Ed” to “Ellie.”
I’m thankful for Philadelphia. I cherish the soundtrack from that movie, and the images of Hanks’ character not giving up, of persisting despite the odds.
That was, of course, until Hanks’ character died. From AIDS.
What is your clarion call? What is it rousing you to do? Are you heeding the call?
February 16, 2013
Why is it that trans folk lose people they love when they transition? Why isn’t everyone willing to take our “gender journey” with us?
Shortly after I began to transition–when I was in that gray area between man and woman, boy and girl, where my hair was growing out and I was near constantly wearing androgynous women’s clothes, but had not yet come out as “Ellen”–a dear friend told me that he could only see the “ghost of Ed Krug.” He felt a real loss, and his heart wouldn’t allow him to accept me as my true self, a woman named “Ellen.” The words hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it. I could only wait for him to come back to me, the real me.
I’m still waiting. That was three and a half years ago.
Last month, I received an email from Lisa (not her real name), a relative whom I haven’t seen since before I transitioned. Lisa’s a bright thirty-something mother of two young daughters whom I liked very much. I was thrilled to hear from her. I was thrilled even more when Lisa said that she would like to see me. I thought, maybe she’s come back to me.
Two weeks ago, we set a date for lunch. That lunch was to occur today. I really looked forward to it. Late last night I received an email from Lisa. She had changed her mind; she wasn’t emotionally ready to see me as Ellen.
Oh, how sad that made me! Still, I wrote back and told Lisa to take her time, that I’d remain open, and that I’d be there whenever she decided she was ready to meet.
I am blessed by many people who love me as Ellen or Ellie (a nickname I absolutely cherish!). Some of those people knew me in my former male life, and they’ve taken my “gender journey” with me. Others never knew me as a man, and when told what I was like as an aggressive in-your-face lawyer, can’t believe that was me.
We transgender people are resilient. Part of that resiliency must be in staying open to those whom we’ve lost along the way.
Lisa, I meant what I wrote last night. I will be here if your heart is ever ready to accept the real me.
February 10, 2013
Getting to Ellen is now real!
It’s been four years in the making–two of intense work. I walked into The Loft in Minneapolis on a sunny Friday afternoon in January, 2009 and announced, “I’m going to write my memoir.” I was still running a law firm then, and had a single writing course (1986, Stonehill College, Easton Massachusetts) to my credit. I knew nothing about writing “creative non-fiction” as memoirs are called today.
With the help of many people, I was able to get a sort-of-first-draft completed. A couple people looked at the draft and tore it apart. I went back to near zero and produced another draft. I was lucky enough to find a writing group (the “Thursday Group” at The Loft) where everyone was a better writer than me. It sure helped.
On an on I wrote. In the end, I think I wrote more than 800,000 words before Getting to Ellen was done. It feels good now. I look forward to readings and talking about my “gender journey.” Most importantly, I look forward to talking to others on a human level. As my friend Phil Duran has frequently heard me say, all of us need to talk “human to human” way more often.
And why do I write? More concisely, why do I write my story?
When I was a boy (I never use “man”–it’s too harsh, too much of my old reality), I often thought about writing my story. Lydia gave me my first journal the night I left for Boston College Law School–a brown hardcover with virgin pages. It took almost 15 years to fill that journal. I bought my second journal just as I began therapy to deal with the gut tugs that kept pulling at me–You need to have your own life.
By the time Getting to Ellen was into its tenth draft, I had filled more than a dozen journals. I started a new one on my birthday in December 2012, and suspect that I’ll journal until the day I die.
In all those years, as I fought myself with bare knuckles in the mud trying to stay married to Lydia, the love of my life, I asked myself, What will your story look like? How will it arc? How will it end?
I couldn’t bring myself to start that story while I was still a boy. What would be the point? How can you write your story when the story is a lie? How could you tell an authentic story about an inauthentic life?
Perhaps of all the markers that I used to debate about whether to leave my old life, it was that marker–you can never tell your story if you aren’t true to yourself–which most helped me change my life and become Ellen.
In Getting to Ellen, I write about finally “arriving.”
It’s nice to be able to say that my book, too, has arrived.