Review: Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock

| Sep 25, 2017

This month, I’m reviewing the new book by Janet Mock. If you read TGForum (and obviously you do) I’m assuming you know who she is. Editor, journalist, big name at big name magazines who came out VERY publicly in Marie Claire magazine in 2011, etc.. This review is of THIS BOOK, not about her. Major props to her for all she’s done for the Trans community. Okay?

Ms. Mock has a master’s in journalism from NYU, and previously wrote a NYT best seller Redefining Realness. It is with these things in mind that I review this book. I have NOT read her other book, which covered her childhood through transition.

Surpassing Certainty

Surpassing Certainty

The new book is Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me. She picks up her story in her college years. More specifically, in a dance club. In it, she sees a former high school classmate who knows that she is transgender.

Too many nights had ended with me upset by harsh truths that stripped me of my right to disclose and self-define on my own terms. The truth is a whip when wielded by a malicious mouth, lashing you into obedience and confinement, a stinging reminder that despite your best efforts, you are still captive to others.

A strong passage making for a strong start to the book. So many of us, whether we’ve transitioned or just go out occasionally, dread that moment — the moment when others judge us for something out of our control. I get clocked with some frequency. When I’m just out and about, it doesn’t bother me, as I can react if I wish. However, when I’m at work, I CAN’T react — I’m trapped. There is nothing I can say or do.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t maintain that strength. Ms. Mock becomes a stripper, and makes the point over and over that, unless someone knew her from before, she passes completely. Again and again. We get it, Ms. Mock: you’re a beautiful woman who transitioned young. No need to rub it in to those of us who didn’t have that luxury.

From there, she meets a man and falls in love. Once again, she briefly meditates upon how her Truth could destroy the relationship. Very true — it’s happened to so many of us. Fortunately for her, it doesn’t.

The book follows her through college, the arc of that relationship, including marriage, her move to New York City for grad school, internship, and her first jobs in publishing.

Janet Mock

Janet Mock

Know what? I was bored. Seriously. There was an occasional bon mot or revelation, but for the most part, I had a hard time slogging through this. As for the Trans angle, well, there really wasn’t one. I was FAR more interested in her struggles as an African American woman in a white dominated field.

The book ends with her 30th birthday party. She touches upon her coming out in a major magazine, but only touches on it. I REALLY would’ve loved to know more about that — her whole thought process, etc. Nope.

The book had some redeeming points. The end of her marriage tugged on some familiar heart strings. And as I said, there is an occasional insight. But for a book with the subtitle of What My Twenties Taught Me, there are no real revelations here. A better subtitle would have been “The Story Continues.”

I didn’t know what to expect, really. I guess I expected more from a woman of her credentials and experiences. Maybe I needed to read her other book first — I don’t know.

Janet Mock is an amazing woman, and has done a LOT for the Trans community. However, I’m sad to say, this book really did nothing for me.

Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock, 9781501145797

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Read Sophie's blog here. View her contribution to The New York Times transgender stories article. She has also been featured in an article on

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