This is mostly a memoir, a memoir of activism by an academic who has found herself on both sides of the divide between activists and scientists. I have to say that the book took me by surprise -- after reading the first couple chapters, I was wondering whether the author of the book blurb had read the book. And I had zeroed in way too much on the Galileo in the title and the cover but... well, he is on the cover and in the title. What was all this about intersex people and transsexuals? I mean, I care a little bit about that, but probably not enough to read a full-length highly passionate book about them and activism for them...
But then she got to the heart of the book. When the beliefs of activists and individuals run counter to the science, and these individuals have been terribly ostracized and oppressed and have every right to defend themselves, but then abuse this right by abusing the scientists who are studying them and are essentially advocating for them.... wait, what side should I be on?
The science in this book is mostly of sexual identity, since that's Dreger's area of activism. But it touches on other social sciences as well. It's well-written and honest. In describing a moment of incredible optimism and naivete, the author reflects that she was also sick and perhaps high on cough syrup. She also describes her frustration at the reactionary nature of the internet age, a sort of post-investigative-journalism age. Can't we all make sure we get the facts right and not fly off the handle? She struggles with her own identity: if other people are doing crazy things in the name of feminism, do I still want to call myself a feminist? (This is, of course, a question that has to be asked about every label we apply to ourselves.) She asks fantastic questions and makes a real attempt at answering them. They're huge questions, and of course she doesn't find all the answers, but I really enjoyed reading her struggle with them.
Given the nature of the content here, this will no doubt be a highly controversial book (that comes as a guarantee if you tackle controversial topics). Not everyone will agree with her point of view. But since she handles the topics well, I believe it will make an excellent topic of conversation for many readers.
I got this through Penguin's First to Read program.