cover image NORMAL: Transsexual CEOs, Cross-Dressing Cops and Hermaphrodites with Attitudes

NORMAL: Transsexual CEOs, Cross-Dressing Cops and Hermaphrodites with Attitudes

Amy Bloom, . . Random, $23.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-679-45652-0

Taking in an amazing range and diversity of the human experience of gender and sexuality, novelist Bloom (Love Invents Us) devotes an essay each to three phenomena: female to male transsexualism, heterosexual cross-dressing and the intersexed, or those with ambiguous genitalia or confusing chromosomal balance. But she is most interested in examining "why the rest of us struggle" with gender and sexual experiences we do not share. Bloom interviews people from each of the above groups (as well as doctors, social scientists and gender activists) and brings together, in graceful, readable prose, a plethora of facts, ideas, arguments and personal responses to help us reconsider received ideas about gender. While some of her information is surprising (babies born with "confusing" gentials are more common than babies born with cystic fibrosis), she never uses the lives of her subjects to titillate. Bloom is happy to confess her own, and others', confusions and lack of information, pointing out that there is no reliable information on the number of heterosexual cross-dressers, for instance. And she allows her subjects—like the female-to-male-transsexual who has not undergone phalloplasty and claims, "I can live this way, as a man with a vagina"—their complicated lives. Fascinating without being prurient, detailed without being overly scientific, the book opens new ways of viewing not only gender but our own inability to accept difference. (Oct.)

Forecast:Bloom's original piece in the New Yorker generated a lot of attention, and readers of her fiction will tune in to see what she's up to. If media bandwidth is available, this accessible book could be high-profile enough to initiate copycat articles and think-piece reviews—and thus sales.