One of Us, by Alice Domurat Dreger
Fellow sociologists, medical ethicists, gender/identity/sexuality scholars, and prospective parents, strap on your boots! Dr. Dreger, a bioethics professor at Northwestern, studies sex anomalies, conjoined twins, science history, and scientific controversies from a patient advocate standpoint. What a cocktail of awesome!
One of Us is a succinct and potent exploration of how our culture’s obsession with standardizing anatomy produces problems in our treatment of conjoined twins, intersex people, and others with alternative anatomies, both medically and socially. She focuses on how our “singleton” (non-conjoined)-centered mindframe leads us to pursue dangerous separation surgeries for conjoined twins far often than we perhaps should. Because we, as singletons, can’t imagine living conjoined, Dreger argues, we impose separation, frequently when twins can’t consent and/or separation creates health risks. She draws comparisons to the sex reassignment surgeries frequently performed on intersex infants, and the physical and emotional problems these individuals encounter later on.
Eng and Chang Bunker: Thailand-born American performers, plantation owners, fathers to 21 children, and esteemed society figures. (photo from Wikipedia)
These are important issues, particularly if (like me) you fall into a mainstream gender and anatomical category and therefore aren’t personally forced to confront them. But even if you’re not reading it with a social justice lens, it’s fascinating stuff, with lots of stories about conjoined twins throughout history. Though academic in tone, Dreger writes clearly, and it’s a pretty quick read.
The 213 in 2013 series chronicles every book I read in 2013. Each review contains exactly 213 words, because 2013 words is too long and 2013 characters is too dang short.