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AS NATURE MADE HIM

THE BOY WHO WAS RAISED AS A GIRL

nature versus nurture. (First printing of 125,000; Literary Guild super release; author tour)

Born a boy, brought up a girl, David Thiessen always knew in his genes that he was a male, despite his eminent doctor's

self-serving pronouncements. Colapinto, the reporter who won a National Magazine Award for a piece on David's story, engrossingly recounts this tale of grotesque medical hubris and a life dragged slowly from the ashes. 30 years ago, David—a pseudonym used in review galleys, his actual name to be revealed upon publication—"lost his entire penis to a botched circumcision." When he was just a year old, John Money, M.D., a pioneer in transsexual surgery at Johns Hopkins, convinced David’s parents to have the boy’s sex changed, arguing that subsequent social, mental, and hormonal conditioning would turn him into a happy woman. Publicly and falsely touted as an unqualified success, David’s case—exploited as a gaudy feather in the cap of nurturists over naturists, proof that the gender gap was not biological but environmental—ushered in a period when sex-reassignment surgery became standard treatment in situations where newborns had injured or irregular genitals. David, on the other hand, was deeply confused about his gender identity long before his operation was disclosed to him. He suffered the cruelty of peers who didn't appreciate his tomboyism, had few friends but his identical-twin brother (who makes a fascinating comparative profile), and came to dread any contact with Money, a bully who deployed "pressure tactics, cajoling, pornography, and unorthodox inspections and posings" when Brenda, as David was known, resisted further surgery. As soon as David learned his birth sex, he applied for phalloplasty and began to pick up the pieces of his malignantly manipulated life. Colapinto's storytelling, taut and emotive, never plays the grim tale for its sideshow qualities, nor claims the last word on

nature versus nurture. (First printing of 125,000; Literary Guild super release; author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-019211-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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