Thursday, August 09, 2007

Deathly Hallows and Middlesex

WARNING: HARRY POTTER SPOILERS! Don't read this one if you haven't finished the last book yet.

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows about 4 days into our beach week. I probably would have finished in a day if I had been able to read straight through, but being in a house with 20 of my relatives, some of whom I hadn't seen for two years, made it difficult to find good reading time. The first 200 pages or so I read out loud to Eric and Sawyer on the drive down, which was fun and distracted us from the fact that our normally 5 hour drive took us 11 hours (more on this in my previous post).

I think Deathly Hallows is my favorite of the whole series. I was prepared to be let down after so much build-up, but Rowling really outdid herself and wrote a near perfect conclusion. I'm glad I was wrong about my Dumbledore theory, because the way she had him come back in Harry's vision right at the climax was spectacular. I also loved the way we got to see Snape's whole story - and I'm glad I was right about Snape! He is probably the most interesting character in the books, and as it turns out he was one of the biggest heroes too. The conclusive tone of the Epilogue was so satisfying. Harry has a normal life, a loving family, and cool kids with friends. So happy.

So once I was done with Harry Potter (and so sad that I'm done forever!) I moved on to Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's a first person narrative about a man who was raised as a girl. He was born with XY chromosomes, but with a genetic error that caused his external organs to develop in a way that they appeared female. This is more common than most people think - estimates are that 1 in 2000 babies are born with "ambiguous genitalia". When this happens a decision has to be made about how to raise the child. In the (fictional) case of the book, they don't discover the abnormality until he's 15 and has already been raised as a girl. It's a fascinating study of gender identity and the struggle between genetics and society, nature and nurture. I highly recommend it. And I'd love comments and ideas from anyone who's read it. Eric will not discuss this one with me because he finds the whole idea too disturbing. At least we have Harry Potter.


  1. After taking my bioethics class at BYU I was pretty sure all my children would be born ambigiously sexed and anencephalic. It's surprising how common the uncommon can be. And it seems at least biologically, gender slides along a spectrum instead of operating like a switch. So interesting. I'll have to check out Middlesex.

  2. I really, really liked Middlesex. But when I saw it on my mother-in-law's book pile, I have to admit, I was a bit surprised. Somehow hermaphroditism seems like a young person's book topic-- not sure why.

  3. Katy, I felt the same way when I read stuff about this in college. I think we think it's less common because it's not something people talk about, for obvious reasons. Our culture is so black/white on gender and doesn't like to think about the in-between. You don't have to go very far back or very far away to find cultures that were much more flexible about it than we are. Not sure how I feel about that, but it's interesting.

    Shelah, Thanks for the comment. I really like your blog - I am a huge admirer of runners, not being one myself. The beauty of Oprah's Book Club is that middle-aged women will read books about hermaphrodites if she tells them to.


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