Monthly Archives: December 2011

Down-to-Read with Daniela: As Nature Made Him by John Colapinto

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Full Title:
As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl

Non-Fiction, Biography, Canadian, Gender Identity, Historical, Journalism, Mental Health, Science, Social Commentary

In 1967, following a baby boy’s botched circumcision, his family agrees to surgically alter the boy to live as a girl. From there, Bruce became Brenda and under the vigilance of renowned doctor John Money, Brenda was nurtured to enjoy feminine things, such as wearing frilly dresses and helping her mom in the kitchen. Lauded as an indisputable success by the influential Money, Brenda’s case was revered in the medical community and became the impetus for future infant sex re-assignments.

But everything didn’t turn out perfectly for Brenda. Knowing that something was not quite right with her body, Brenda struggled to fit in with her peers at school. She was rough and tumble and never truly identified with girls. She would beat up her twin brother and play with her brother’s toys rather than her own dolls. Brenda turned into a despondent, angry child. Her grades slipped and she became increasingly wary of medical professionals, especially Money.

Finally at the age of fourteen, Brenda reverted back to the gender that she always felt at her core: boy. Narrowly evading suicide, Brenda became David, and went on to face corrective surgery, get married and raise three children.

The experiment that inspired generations of medical professionals was suddenly a failure. David, determined to save other children from the same fate, was finally able to face the world and share his sad story and his indomitable will to survive.

My Thoughts:
Fascinating topic for a book! You might remember David Reimer’s amazing story from a late 1990s episode of Oprah. Reimer’s life will make you think twice about gender identity politics. Following the debate surrounding nature vs. nurture, David’s case and others like him reveal that boys and girls are not always “made.”

Colapinto’s novel is at times less of a biography of Reimer, and more of a broader ethical discussion of infant sex-reassignment surgery. His journalism is painstakingly detailed and his stance is clear. At times, Colapinto’s portrayal of Money can be a little one-dimensional. Money is vilified as a staunchly stubborn and even perverse doctor. But after all the facts are revealed, you can’t help but feel that Colapinto is quite justified in his conclusions.

Borrow As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl from your local Vaughan library today!

Mondays are murder

I am only going to say this once – I like comics.  There.   Now it’s out there.  I enjoy sequential art, graphic storytelling, that “kid stuff.”  And I know I have said this before, but I will say it again (and continue to say it until I am in the grave) – there is a lot more to comics than just superheroes and “kid stuff.”  I can guarantee you that no matter what you like, no matter what you don’t like, there is a comic or graphic novel out there that will appeal to you.

Perusing the shelves not too long ago, I ran across a set of titles that appeals to me!  Vertigo is the “mature” arm of DC Comics, and they have a series called “Vertigo Crime.”  In this series, writers who are well known in other arenas (Ian Rankin anybody?) are called in to write crime stories that are then drawn by famous comics artists.  I scooped up the four I found on the shelf and read them all, one after the other.

Dark entries cover imageArea 10 cover imageThe Chill cover imageBronx Killcover image

I am not going to make you suffer through a summary and comments on all four of them!  Suffice it to say, if you like your crime dark and gritty, if violence doesn’t offend you, and if you are interested in a non-traditional look at the world we live in, then you could do worse than reading some “Vertigo Crime.” 

I will say that of the four, Ian Rankin’s Dark Entriesand Peter Milligan’s The Bronx Kill were my favourites.  The first because Rankin so easily constructs so layered a story.  The second because it is not a “traditional” murder mystery, even though it is chock-full of NYC Irish cops.  But Area 10 and The Chill were also good.

I’ve said it before, and I am sure I will say it again: give graphic a chance!

A note: I will be taking a short break from weekly posts at the start of the new year.  I am taking this break in an attempt to put together a structured sequence of murderous reading for 2012 – so please bear with me, and I hope it will all be worth it!

Down-to-Read with Daniela: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Age Group:
Young Adult

Realistic Fiction, Poetry, American Fiction, Coming-of-age, Romance

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, clarinetist and bookworm, lives contentedly in the shadows of her spirited older sister Bailey. But when Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie is forced to accept life as an only child – and as the new center of attention around town. Suddenly, her melancholic mood is attracting two different boys. Toby, formerly engaged to marry Bailey, seems inexplicably drawn to Lennie and the deep, deep sorrow that the two now share. Plagued by guilt, Lennie struggles to cope with the suddenly physical relationship that is growing between them.

But a ray of sunshine bursts into Lennie’s life in the form of new classmate and Parisian import Joe Fontaine. Joe, untouched by loss, is full of energy and passion, and Lennie can not helped but be drawn into his compassionate embrace. Soon Lennie finds herself torn in two, divided by her overwhelming sense of despair and her desire to find joy in life once again.

My Thoughts:
A celebration of life, love and passion during a time of immense sorrow and grief, The Sky is Everywhere has much to say about death and how it feels to be the person left behind. Lennie is a realistic character, whose emotions perfectly capture the experience of loss. Lennie’s eccentric Gram and uncle Big are also plausible figures who mirror Lennie’s grief and enable her to survive it. This is a sexy, fierce novel that ebbs along at an enticing pace.

Borrow The Sky is Everywhere from your local Vaughan library today!