From the cover:
Amy Bloom has won a devoted readership and wide critical acclaim for fiction of rare humor, insight, grace, and eloquence, and the same qualities distinguish Normal, her first full-length work of nonfiction. In Normal, the National Book Award finalist explores sex and gender through portraits of people who are widely considered not normal.
“A great many people, sick of news from the margins, worn out by the sand shifting beneath their assumptions, like to imagine Nature as a sweet, simple voice: tulips in spring, Vermont’s leaves falling in autumn,” Bloom writes. “Nature is more like Aretha Franklin: vast, magnificent, capricious, occasionally hilarious, and infinitely varied.”
Bloom takes us on a provocative, intimate journey into the lives of “people who reveal, or announce, that their gender is variegated rather than monochromatic” – female-to-male transsexuals, heterosexual crossdressers, and the intersexed. We meet Lyle Monelle and his mother, Jessie, who recognized early on that her little girl was in fact a boy and used her life saving to help Lyle make the transgender transition. On a Carnival cruise with a group of cross dressers and their spouses, we meet Peggy Rudd and her husband, “Melanie,” who devote themselves to the cause of “ordinary heterosexual men with an additional feminine dimension.” And we meet Hale Hawbecker, “a regular, middle-of-the-road, white-bread guy” with a wife, kids, and a medical condition, the standard treatment for which would have changed his life and his gender.
Bloom shows the essential humanity in this infinite variety, allowing us to appreciate these people as they really are – both like and unlike everyone else – and inviting us “to see into these worlds and back out to the larger one we all share.” Casting light into the dusty corners of our assumptions about sex, gender, and identity, about what it means to be male or female, Bloom reveals new facets to ideas about happiness, personality, and character, even as she brilliantly illumines the very concept of “normal.”
“Wonderfully written, thoughtfully and compassionately told, this book stretches the concept of ‘normal’ to show how elastic, how all-embracing, nature’s view of gender really is. It’s a mind-opening, spirit-enlarging book.” – Deborah Tannen
“Fluid and deftly constructed. . . . Bloom’s unwillingness to embrace simple formulations, her insistence on digging deeper, is her book’s strength.” – New York Times Book Review
“Amy Bloom’s wonderful eye and ear are evident as she encounters people for whom gender is a complex issue. Bloom cares for her subjects but retains her objectivity; her great skill is in extracting and weaving from the specific stories her own original thesis about sexuality and gender. This is an important work.” – Abraham Verghese
“In a book that is part travelogue, part social exploration, Bloom uses compassion and humor to raise the possibility of expanding the American sexual spectrum.” – Hartford Courant
“This is an important book which says new and interesting things about sex and gender, and- it is a very good read.” – Grace Paley