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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 Critics Circle Award and 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 savings to help Lyle make the transgender transition. On a Carnival cruise with a group of crossdressers 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 particular 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.”
“[F]luid and deftly contructed essays. . . . Bloom’s unwillingness to embrace simple formulations, her insistence on digging deeper, is her book’s strength.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Part travelogue, part social exploration, Bloom uses compassion and humor to raise the possibility of expanding the American sexual spectrum.” —The Hartford Courant
“Fascinating without being prurient. . . [Normal] opens new ways of viewing not only gender but our own inability to accept difference.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“Amy Bloom’s wonderful eye and ear are evident. . . She 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, author of My Own Country
“Wonderfully written, thoughtfully and compassionately told. . . A mind-opening, spirit-enlarging book.” —Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand
“A moving examination of the variety of gender and erotic preferences.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Bloom dares the reader to be willingly confounded by her always engaging, frequently humorous interviewees while also airing her own reactions. . . An accessible, nonsensationalistic introduction to a fascinating and controversial subject.” —Library Journal
“Bloom’s understanding of gender changed radically after her remarkable odyssey into the hidden worlds of female-to-male transsexuals, heterosexual cross-dressers, and hermaphrodites, so will her readers’.” —Booklist
Praise for Amy Bloom
“Amy Bloom is possessed of great subtlety and rock-solid integrity. Her stories crackle with subvert revelation. She is a compassionate writer who, more important, loves the world too much to sentimentalize it.” —Michael Cunningham, about A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You
“Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books.” —The New Yorker, about A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You
“The highest compliment I can pay a writer is to say that her work is Chekhovian—which is to say that its fine, fierce intelligence is matched by its compassion. . . . This is a rare book.” —Rosellen Brown, about Love Invents Us
“Amy Bloom has many voices and lives many lives. . . . Come to Me is charged from the first line. . . . Then, step by step, it gathers weight, texture and power, and suddenly it ends with what is really another beginning. . . . We know we are in the hands of a real writer.” —Margo Jefferson, The New York Times, about Come to Me