Nancy Miller
November 01, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Fiction writer Bloom challenges our ”reassuring bulwarks” of ”normal” with her nonfiction debut exploring gender identity. A practicing psychotherapist, Bloom resists dry analysis here, opting for colorful stories instead: She travels to Montana to meet female-to-male transsexuals, befriends a gaggle of cross-dressers on a Carnival cruise, and introduces us to the nation’s preeminent hermaphrodite activist. At times, the pronoun jumbling and clinical jargon are confusing, but Bloom’s stellar writing ultimately gets her points across: ”Nature is not two little notes on a child’s flute; Nature is more like Aretha Franklin: vast, magnificent, capricious — occasionally hilarious — and infinitely varied.” Making her effort — and subjects — worthy of r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

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