One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal

Named by (the) John Green as one of his favorite books: "For Green, this is more than just one of the best nonfiction books he's read. It's a book about disability, power, and how people in charge 'tend to essentialize and marginalize the other.'"

“The evidence Alice Dreger marshals in this impressively argued, immensely readable book, suggests that conjoined twins are often perfectly at home in their shared skin, a fact that stretches, if anything, only our assumptions about their double lives. In articulating the rights of the individual in the most intimate of corporations, Dreger makes a persuasive argument for changing society rather than people.” — Jeffrey Eugenides, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Middlesex

One of Us is a fascinating, reasoned, and marvelous exploration of a subject we can’t help being drawn to. Alice Dreger’s book has forced me to rethink my most basic assumptions about the issue of identity and separateness, for which I am most grateful.” — Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone and My Own Country

“[T]his surprisingly entertaining book examines cultural reactions to conjoined twins and other anatomical anomalies…. Nowadays, pediatric surgeons so prize normalcy that they perform sexual surgery on infants without concern for adult function; they may also withhold information from parents, and even override their consent, when dealing with birth defects… [Dreger’s] examples persuasively make the case that the anatomically different feel normal to themselves.” — The New Yorker

“Conjoined twins serve as a metaphor for fundamental truths about what it is to be human. Much of the book’s power, much of its importance, derives from the ways in which the stories it tells resonate with the lives of those who are neither conjoined nor intersexual....Each reader, I suspect, will find their own story here.” — David Wootton, London Review of Books

“Dreger’s book stands out for her extensive use of both historical literature and the current media..[S]he provides ample reason to ask ourselves the question ‘Why not change minds instead of bodies?’” — Gretchen Worden, New England Journal of Medicine

 

From the jacket: Must children born with socially challenging anatomies have their bodies changed because others cannot be expected to change their minds? One of Us views conjoined twinning and other "abnormalities" from the point of view of people living with such anatomies, and considers these issues within the larger historical context of anatomical politics. Anatomy matters, Alice Domurat Dreger tells us, because the senses we possess, the muscles we control, and the resources we require to keep our bodies alive limit and guide what we experience in any given context. Her deeply thought-provoking and compassionate work exposes the breadth and depth of that context--the extent of the social frame upon which we construct the "normal." In doing so, the book calls into question assumptions about anatomy and normality, and transforms our understanding of how we are all intricately and inextricably joined.

 

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