In 1967, after a twin baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment that would alter his gender. The case would become one of the most famous in modern medicine--and a total failure. As Nature Made Him tells the extraordinary story of David Reimer, who, when finally informed of his medical history, made the decision to live as a male. A macabre tale of medical arrogance, it is first and foremost a human drama of one man's--and one family's--amazing survival in the face of terrible odds.
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Once you begin reading As Nature Made Him, a mesmerising story of a medical tragedy and its traumatic results, you absolutely won't want to put it down. Following a botched circumcision, a family is convinced to raise their infant son, Bruce, as a girl. They rename the child Brenda and spend the next 14 years trying to transform him into a her. Brenda's childhood reads as one filled with anxiety and loneliness, and her fear and confusion are present on nearly every page concerning her early childhood. Much of her pain is caused by Dr Money, who is presented as a villainous medical man attempting to coerce an unwilling child to submit to numerous unpleasant treatments.
Reading over interviews and reports of decisions made by this doctor, it is difficult to contain anger at the widespread results of his insistence that natural-born gender can be altered with little more than willpower and hormone treatments. The attempts of his parents, twin brother, and extended family to assist Brenda to be happily female are touching--the sense is overwhelmingly of a family wanting to do "right" while being terribly misled as to what "right" is for her. As Brenda makes the decision to live life as a male (at age 14), she takes the name David and begins the process of reversing the effects of oestrogen treatments. David's ultimately successful life--a solid marriage, honest and close family relationships and his bravery in making his childhood public--bring an uplifting end to his story. Equally fascinating is the latest segment of the long-time nature/nurture controversy, and the interviews of various psychological researchers and practitioners form a larger framework around David's struggle to live as the gender he was meant to be. --Jill LightnerReview:
"From the moment I read about the baby boy whom doctors changed into a girl, I yearned to know the story from the child's point of view: What did he think? What did he feel? How did his life turn out? "As Nature Made Him tells that story--heartbreaking, infuriating, but also fascinating--an object lesson in medical hubris and close-the-ranks collusion, and in the tragic results when ideology trumps common sense in thinking about sex and gender. Above all, it's a deeply moving human drama and a testament to the inner strength and courage of the child who never lost touch with who he really was."--Deborah Tannen
"The hottest hypothesis in the academic world today is that nature always trumps nurture. John Colapinto's absorbing "As Nature Made Him stands as exhibit A."--Tom Wolfe
"Harrowing and enthralling, "As Nature Made Him makes a convincing case that gender has less to do with the signals we send and receive from the world than with ineradicable messages encoded in every cell of our brains and bodies."--"Elle
"Colapinto, a writer of striking lucidity and compassion, inspired the very private man who now proudly calls himself David to reveal the entire story of his horrendous ordeal in hopes of preventing others from suffering his fate. The result is an arresting and invaluable narrative of personal tragedy, scientific arrogance, and societal confusion over the source andsignificance of gender differences."--"Booklist
"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....Colapinto's storytelling, taut and emotive, never plays the grim tale for its sideshow qualities, nor claims the last word on nature versus nurture."--"Kirkus, starred review
"Riveting, cleanly written, and brilliantly researched."--Natalie Angier, "New York Times Book Review
."..An engaging book. Given access to Reimer's psychiatric files, family and friends, the author reconstructs a horrific tale: a scrappy kid made to wear pink and pearls; a bully of a doctor unwilling to admit failure; a family torn apart by guilt. David's courageous and unlikely victory--today he's a happily married stepfather of three--shows us how psychololgy's theories du jour can be painfully, dreadfully wrong. A gut-wrenching, absorbing account."--"People
"Fascinating...the book, by New York writer John Colapinto, skillfully and unsentimentally chronicles the odyssey of David and his anguished parents, who were little more than teenagers when they faced the dilemma of how best to help their son. The book succeeds on many levels--as the gripping story of a child and his family as well as a carefullydocumented examination of how an unproven theory became accepted as standard treatment."--"Washington Post
"This case stands as a testament to the arrogance of the medical profession and to the qualified triumph of a boy who always knew who he was."--"Time Out
"With remarkable concision, Mr. Colapinto has telescoped this medical scandal, brilliantly weaving the perspectives of David [Reimer], his family, friends, doctors, and wife...The book's structure is that of a mystery."--"New York Observer
"Raises fascinating scientific, philosophical questions--and also packs an irresistible narrative force from start to finish."--"Boston Phoenix
"Colapinto's book is a stinging and overdue indictment of the 'sexual reassignment' of infants like baby Bruce and those born with both male and female sex organs....The book also serves as an intimate, heartbreaking diary of Bruce/Brenda Reimer, the casualty of a ghoulish science project gone terribly wrong."--"Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A riveting account of medical arrogance and misguided science."--"Playboy
"What happened to Bruce and his parents is a true-life medical horror to rival any of RobinCook's science thrillers...a fascinating book."--"Houston Chronicle
"Colapinto's account, developed from a December 1997 article in "Rolling Stone, raises fascinating scientific, philosophical, and ethical questions--and also packs an irresistible narrative force from start to finish." --"Providence Phoenix
"This is a mesmerizing tale that manages to balance an engrossing look at what happened to Brenda with a persuasive argument that biology, not environment, determines sexuality."--"San Antonio Express
"John Colapinto debunks "Money's version of Brenda's childhood in his fascinating, exhaustively researched "As Nature Made Him....The result is a detailed and riveting account."--"Seattle Post Intelligencer
"For the most part, "As Nature Made Him is a story of innocence stolen, and of ill fate bravely born....But the book is also a testament to the immutability of self. Because David in the end is a triumph."--"Dallas Morning News
"In the end, what makes "As Nature Made Him impossible to put down is not the machinations of a misguided scientist but the suffering, courage and ultimate triumph of a truly unfortunate child."--"PsychologyToday
"A page-turning story of heroes and villans that stirs both compassion and anger."--"Philadelphi Inquirer
Two riveting stories intertwine in John Colapinto's page turner. . . .One is a human drama, the other a cautionary tale gone awry. And both display, in the stark outlines of a twentieth century morality play, the liberating power of truth and the devastation wrought by lies."--"Weekly Standard
"This thoroughly researched and skillfully told profile of David Reimer deserves to be an early candidate for the best nonfiction book of the year."--"Albany Times Union
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