Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon
Faie Miss Press, September 18, 2012
Read for 2012 Debut Author Challenge
Summary from Goodreads:
Jamie was born with a testis, an ovary, and a pixie face. He can be a boy after minor surgery and a few years on testosterone. That’s what his parents always say, but he sees an elfin princess in the mirror. To become the man his parents expect, Jamie must leave behind a little girl’s dreams.
At sixteen, the four-foot-eleven soprano leaves home school for a boys’ dorm at college. The elfin princess can live in the books Jameson reads and nobody has to find out he isn’t like the other boys.
When a medical student tells Jamie he should have been raised female, he discovers the life he could have as a girl. The elfin princess can thrive, but will she risk losing her family and her education for a boyfriend who may desert her, or a toddler she may never be allowed to adopt?
I was very intrigued when I read the description of this novel. While I've read many novels featuring lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters, I've read nothing about intersex characters. Lianne Simon does a good job of presenting Jamie as a hermaphrodite without making the book too scientific or dramatic. The novel takes place in the 1970's, which at first I found somewhat odd but soon realized is the perfect backdrop for this novel. Jamie possesses an innocence that I'm not sure would exist if the book were to take place in present day. She can't go online to research intersex, she can't find online support groups, she has no idea that other people are out there having the same experiences.
In many ways, this is simply a coming of age story--16 year old Jamie is exploring the world, finding love, and struggling with her family while maintaining strength in her religion. Of course, there is so much more to it than that, but Simon takes great care with her writing and the result is a gentle novel about a strong girl who struggles with having to make the choice: can she be the person she wants to be if that's not who her parents think she is? Will she still be following God if she chooses differently from what her parents want?
And if you do have questions about intersex when you're finished reading this book (as I did), a wonderful resource is the author's own website: http://www.liannesimon.com. Her "Intersex Primer" was particularly informative. She gives very matter-of-fact information on the different genetic anomalies that most of us lump together as hermaphroditism.
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. Lianne has graciously offered a signed copy to one lucky winner. To be entered, just leave your name and email address in the comments. Contest will close on September 7.
Enjoy your reading!