cover image Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World

Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World

Olga Khazan. Hachette, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-41848-5

Journalist Khazan debuts with a series of sharp, empathetic portraits of individuals who identify as weird and who faced obstacles yet found success. Khazan casts a wide net on who is considered weird, including those who go against expectations, those who are transgender or live outside of gender norms, and those with physical differences not considered “normal,” such as dwarfism. Khazan taps into weirdness through stories of her upbringing as a Russian-Jewish immigrant in Bible Belt Texas and via interviews with people who are comfortable being different from their peers, writing with an eye toward sharing what her subjects can teach others, namely: “Being different from other people around you confers hidden advantages that can help you in life and work”—such as providing novel perspectives and allowing outside-the-box innovation. She profiles race car driver Julia Landauer (whose outsider status as a woman proves both a hindrance and help) over the course of a season , sociology professor Beverly Stiles (“the liberal one” at a conservative university), and formerly Amish Emma Gingerich to exhibit how being an outsider can contribute to success. In a particularly memorable case, Khazan profiles Michele Roberts, a black woman who, in law school, was motivated by the prejudice of her professors to study harder than her peers to become a top litigator. These stories of people who revel in their weirdness provide a winning demonstration of the value of difference. Agent: Howard Yoon, The Ross Yoon Agency. (Apr.)