Tag: Book review

Defining Normal Genitalia: A Review of Camille Nurka’s Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery

Everything, of course, has a history, and in her book, Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery: Deviance, Desire and the Pursuit of Perfection, Camille Nurka seeks to find the historical path leading up to what have been popularly (and not entirely accurately) called “designer vaginas.” These surgeries are often performed, and requested, with the intention of surgically… Read more →

The Collective Power of Our Abortion Stories

“I had an abortion in 1999.” So begins Annie Finch’s important new anthology, Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, about the representation of abortion across literary genres. After her abortion, Finch searched to find depictions of the procedure in literature to make sense of her experience and was surprised to learn that no major collection existed…. Read more →

Past Practices: A Review of Ruth MacKay’s Life in a Time of Pestilence: The Great Castilian Plague of 1596–1601

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a number of historians of medicine and other scholars have written and given interviews about past public health crises. E. Thomas Ewing’s look at how newspapers focused on kissing during the 1918 influenza outbreak suggested that the emphasis on kissing via handkerchief 100 years ago signaled potentially troubling questions for… Read more →

Between a Soft Rock and a Hard Place: A Review of Karen Tongson’s Why Karen Carpenter Matters

Early in her new book Why Karen Carpenter Matters, Karen Tongson reports that a karaoke machine in the Philippines once presented the key phrase from the Carpenters’ 1970 song “We’ve Only Just Begun” as “whiteness and promises” instead of “white lace and promises.”1 Sometimes, Tongson suggests, getting something “wrong” can be a very powerful mode… Read more →

Sperm Donor Siblings Speak Their Truths

In Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin, sociologists Rosanna Hertz and Margaret Nelson ask what it means for children to be related to each other via a sperm donor. In their rendering, this is not merely a theoretical question up for philosophical debate. What is so brilliant about… Read more →

Unmasked by the Marquess and the Male Impersonator’s Tipping Point

In a moment in which trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people have quickly gained increased visibility, the stakes of telling a tale of a person assigned female at birth and living as a man have never been higher. Tales of “male impersonators” existed long before the “transgender tipping point,” but this historic moment calls for… Read more →

Conditions Are Favorable—For Love!

Tara Staley’s 2013 novel Conditions Are Favorable brings romance to the windswept sand bar of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, positing an emotional relationship between Orville Wright and Madeleine Tate at the start of the twentieth century. Tate is a local woman dreaming of something better than rural poverty and hard work. She seems to find… Read more →

“I Would Rather Die”: A Review of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland

On April 27 of last year, sociologist and psychiatrist Jonathan M. Metzl was at a public reading for his new book, Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland, when a group of megaphone-wielding “identitarians” interrupted him. They offered up a cringe-inducing nativist political platform and chanted “this land is… Read more →

The “Textile Memoir”: A Review of Threads of Life by Clare Hunter

I read this beautiful book as slowly as possible because I desperately did not want it to end. Part memoir and part history, Clare Hunter’s Threads of Life: A History of the World Through The Eye of A Needle (Abrams Press, 2019) is a gorgeous exploration of needlework in its contemporary and historical context that… Read more →

Celebrating the Fourth Age: Mapping Menopause with Curiosity and Love

Darcey Steinke’s Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life is a beautiful and complex book grappling with the experience of menopause. The author interweaves research with her personal experience. What is menopause? What should it be? From the deep discomforts of sleeplessness and hot flashes to her eventual landing place that one… Read more →