The Unfinished Dollhouse

The Unfinished Dollhouse

The Unfinished Dollhouse

No mother is prepared for the moment when a child comes out to her as a person whose physical gender is out-of-keeping with his emotional and psychological gender-identity. In Michelle Alfano’s intimate memoir, she recounts her experience as the mother of a transgender child. The central metaphor of The Unfinished Dollhouse tells the story: on Frankie’s fourth birthday, her parents Michelle and Rob purchased a kit to create a beautiful dollhouse. Michelle imagined building the home, buying the tiny pieces of furniture and accessories to fill it and, more importantly, the times she and her daughter would spend constructing the perfect dollhouse – a fantasy of domestic and familial happiness. Frankie expressed no interest in such typically girlish pursuits because Frankie harboured a secret – a secret about gender. In the years to follow, Frankie’s parents experienced an education in parenting a child transitioning from female to male – which pronouns to use, how to disclose the information to friends, family, school and how to deal with the reactions of all – some heartening, some surprising, some disappointing. There is no memoir like The Unfinished Dollhouse in the Canadian cultural landscape, a memoir by the mother of a transgender child.

Praise for Michelle Alfano’s The Unfinished Dollhouse


Selected as one of The Globe 100: Best books of 2017. "The author shares the bitingly personal, viscerally honest story of dealing with her child's transition. Reviewer Michael Coren says, 'it must have been a supremely difficult book to write, because she is a participant rather than a spectator, and as the mother of a girl is involved at the most intimate level with every aspect of Frankie finding resolution as a man. … At its core is the timeless message of absolute and unconditional love.' "

Featured in the Toronto Star, "The Unfinished Dollhouse: A family’s transition with a transgender child", October 28, 2017

“An honest, unsparing, beautifully written memoir of a mother’s journey to welcome the son she’d believed to be her daughter, The Unfinished Dollhouse is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding canon of narratives by the families of beloved transgender children.”
~ Michael Rowe, winner of the Randy Shilts Award for Nonfiction for Other Men’s Sons.

Cited as one of “Six queer books to read in summer 2017” NOW magazine, June 16, 2017.

“Michelle Alfano’s intimate memoir recounts her life-changing experience as the mother of a transgender child. The dollhouse of the title refers to the gorgeous gift she gave her daughter, only to discover that Frankie had zero interest in it. Alfano deals with reactions from family, friends and educators, but it’s her own responses that make this book a winner.” Selected by Susan G. Cole as one of “The books you have to read in 2017”, NOW magazine, January 5, 2017.

“Poignant and heartfelt. Moving and beautifully written. Michelle Alfano’s account of her relationship with her child, Frankie, her chronicle of her all too human reactions as a mother and growth is inspiring whether you are a parent or a child. Highly recommended.” ~ Arif Anwar, author of the forthcoming novel The Storm (Harper Collins, 2018).

Selected by as one of the "Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2017 Non-Fiction Preview". 

"Well written and emotionally charged The Unfinished Dollhouse is a most read for all parents, not just those dealing with LGBT issues in their homes.", KJ Mullins,