Book Revew: Normal
Usually, we have used this space to review new books (see recent reviews of The Book of Dahlia, Away, and The Zookeeper's Wife), but I can not let the opportunity pass to write a bit about Amy Bloom's non-fiction book, Normal, which was first published in 2002. I had initially put Normal on the Jewesses with Attitude Summer Reading List as a whim - an aside, even, just something to accompany my reading of Away if I decided that I liked Amy Bloom. I liked Away a lot, and now, having read Normal, I like Ms. Bloom so much more.
In the past few years as transgender issues have come to the fore, I have been fascinated by the questions: "what does it mean to feel that you're in the wrong body?," and "where do gender and sexuality intersect and where do they diverge?." Normal, which began as an article for the New Yorker in 1994, strives to answer just these questions through interviews with transmen, straight, cross-dressing men, and, perhaps most interestingly, with intersex folks, whose bodies are simply outside the realm of our traditional male/female dichotomy.
What sets Normal apart from the shorter articles or more clinical discussions of trans-issues are Bloom's empathetic portraits of folks at all stages of transitioning, of their families, of the incredibly patient wives of cross-dressing husbands, and of people whose bodies at birth caused such panic in their doctors that they undergo radical and traumatic surgeries long before their bodies can mature. Although Normal is a slim volume (about 130 pages, or 2 hours of reading) after reading all about these people, I felt like I had a much better handle on the nuanced range of experience across the gender and sexuality spectrums. A great read for folks with the same questions I had!
Jewesses with Attitude has written in the past about trans-issues and Judaism. Read more about it here.