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One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal
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One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  265 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
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 Domura ...more
Hardcover, 198 pages
Published April 15th 2004 by Harvard University Press (first published March 1st 2004)
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Nov 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking how the author’s presentation of how the medical world deals with conjoined twins (as a disease that must be cured) should also cover the way society deals with most everything that is “different”: There is a name for every “condition” and a pill or a surgical procedure to move everything closer to a “perfect” homogenized state of normalcy. I couldn’t believe she was going to spend the whole book all concerned because surgeons wouldn’t enter ...more
May 05, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: vanessa, grace
Recommended to Jenny by: john green
Shelves: nonfiction
I liked this book, but I felt there were two issues. Though I agree with her that we should respect people with unusual anatomies to make their own decisions, I felt like I was being hit over the head with the message. Okay! I GET IT! Enough already!

Secondarily, her specialty is in intersex medical history, and that's interesting, but I didn't choose to read those books. Yet it comes up over and over again. Again, I get the similarities, but it's kind of like "this one time a band camp...."
Rori Rischak
Dreger hit the trifecta here. Her book was informative, thought-provoking, and engaging. The pages are filled with anecdotes of the lives of conjoined twins throughout history, the decisions they've made and the lifestyles they've lived.

It offers up some fascinating questions of morality. My favorites were these three:
(1) Why do many people consider it wrong to exploit conjoined twins by putting them on display for their unusual bodies? Isn't that exactly what we do in the modeling industry?
Craig Rowland
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal by Alice Domurat Dreger is devoted to championing the rights of those twins whose lifestyles none of us could ever truly comprehend. Conjoined twin births are extremely rare and when the general public becomes aware of them, it is usually in a news story about a separation attempt. Dreger, in her short book, puts forth the argument against separation, where the "normal" in the title refers to living a full life while still conjoined, thank-you ...more
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alright, so it would seem that I have a bit of a "thing" about conjoined twins. This book is a good philosophical companion book to "Mutants" by Armand Marie Leroi, in that it seeks to break apart our ideas of normal by examining our notions of what is abnormal. There's some good thoughts on a kind of prescriptivist, maybe condescending attitude that is often directed toward anyone perceived as different; even if the backdrop is one of kindness, there is still a presumption of knowing what's bes ...more
Bryn Greenwood
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really wonderful, thought-provoking book. It will certainly expand your ideas about normalcy and individuality and physical integrity. It's possible that it will keep you up at night thinking about just how our society judges the body.
Bethany Zimp
This non-fiction work was very interesting and made me reconsider many of my pre-established viewpoints about body normalcy and how we treat mutations. The ultimate summary is that the author wants to know why we (society, medicine, etc) treat different shaped bodies as diseased specimens requiring treatment, when most of the effected individuals do not view their body as deformed or in need of alteration. [Historically conjoined twins do not want to be separated even when one dies.] The majorit ...more
Lesley Looper
Feb 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lesley by: Margaret
Shelves: non-fiction, 2009
I enjoyed reading this book, and learning more about the debate surrounding separating conjoined twins. It sounds like what society thinks about conjoined twins, and what healthy conjoined twins think about themselves and their connectedness, are often polar perspectives.

One smaller point of the book that I found interesting was that people in history with unusual anatomies (conjoined twins, dwarfs, ususually tall people, etc) have made money making appearances, and in some cases have been looke
Sep 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was full of interesting anecdotes and facts, but I felt like the author was trying to start a social movement toward rights for people with non typical anatomy. And they should have rights -- and the book prompted me to stop and think and talk about some of these concepts with my husband and others.

But I wasn't expecting the book to be a rallying cry to gather support, and the book seemed rather thin once I tried to ignore that part if it.

It was interesting, and informative, but as several other reviewers have noted, her agenda (though important) was pushed rather heavy-handedly.
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as part of my research for my undergraduate dissertation, since I am looking at conjoined twins and separation surgery. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to argue before I started to read this book and it was to my great delight that Alice Dreger argued many of the things that I wish to put forward myself, and in such a clear, articulate way. So many times I found myself reading a paragraph, before nodding vigorously and writing down notes as fast as I could. She essentially argues ...more
Eric Juneau
The book has an axe to grind, that is true, but the subject matter is grotesquely interesting. The (lengthy) introduction promises it's going to be more of an examination of all freaks, but it really focuses on conjoined twins. Through a historical study on subjects like Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins, disastrous attempts at separating twins, plus accounts from existing paired humans, Dreger is trying to say that we shouldn't try to fix what isn't broken. All these people say that the ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review initially published on my blog, Writing by Numbers, here.

Fellow sociologists, medical ethicists, gender/identity/sexuality scholars, and prospective parents, strap on your boots! Dr. Dreger, a bioethics professor at Northwestern, studies sex anomalies, conjoined twins, science history, and scientific controversies from a patient advocate standpoint. What a cocktail of awesome!

One of Us is a succinct and potent exploration of how our culture’s obsession with standardizing anatomy produces
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not going to lie. I only read this because one of my favorite authors told me to. It is not something I normally would pick up on my own. I am so glad that I did, though.

This book fascinated me. It fed my love for sociology but it also brought to light a world that I never really even thought of.

I've never met conjoined twins and they have only popped up in stories that I have read a few times in my life. As a singleton, I've never considered the options conjoined twins and their families h
Laura Hughes
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
I read this shortly after Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, and it makes an excellent companion piece: both deal with conditions, often congenital, which fundamentally change a person's experience of life and make it different from their families of origin, and which raise questions like: under what circumstances should and shouldn't parents choose surgical options that "correct" the child's condition? To what extent is such correction actually helpful, and to wh ...more
Oct 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my better half
Even the bizarre human anomaly who is not fascinated by conjoined twins would get something out of this book. The author gets into issues of disablity rights, medical ethics, and enforced conformity from an angle that disturbed the living crap out of me.

This book didn't really open my eyes or change my mind about anything, and there's nothing shockingly new (except in the specifics of separation surgery stories) if you've given these matters any thought. However, the author really throws herself
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paper-books, 2014
Dreger provides a really interesting perspective on unusual anatomies and whether they really need to be "fixed," since the bodies aren't broken, just different.
The book is a little clinical at times. I would have liked some more personal stories from the families about whom she writes, especially the Schapell twins. But it definitely makes you think and challenges traditional narratives.
I'd kind of like to see an updated version of the book (since it's now 10 years old and things ha
Jan 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical, twins
This book gives you a completely different way of looking at the topics. Conjoined twins have always been an interest of mine. I have watched the A&E show mentioned in this. Parts of this book made me mad, especially a judge ruling over the parents. The point is brought up about the effect of a conjoined losing the other. I am a twin and even losing my sister would upset me and I think would still be there if it happened in infancy. So in my opinion, it would be worse on conjoined twins. I a ...more
Feb 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel does well in educating readers in issues on what most of us think of as normal or abnormal. Too often we think of only one type of body as being fully functioning and acceptable. I like the awareness it raises that people born with conjoined siblings or intersex conditions, for that matter, can be perfectly happy with their bodies since they were born that way. Surgery is often seen as the only solution even when a fulfilling and "normal" life is possible without it. Dreger has a clea ...more
Nov 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I've gotten back into my fascination with Conjoined Twins which began after seeing the film Twin Falls Idaho in 1998. I found this book in downtown LA at a used art bookstore. I love the book design, cover, and size. It's basically an academic thesis, with a few bw photos. Easy to read, interesting commentary on social norms, body image, and ethics. Towards the middle, to the end, I started to skim, as the book was too detailed at time as repetitive. I wanted more personal stories about ...more
Becky Safarik
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was a valuable topic but it could have been done as an article, rather than entire book. I found that Dreger repeated herself, talking and talking some more, on a topic she'd already made her point on. I did, however, appreciate a quote by Mary Wollstonecraft she left us to contemplate at the end: "it is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world." Dreger's last line is then "let us now stop referring to children who undergo massive normalization's as 'real fighters,' and start reco ...more
Amy Alkon
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, which has mind-opening thinking on every page. Even if you think you aren't interested in conjoined twins and others born anatomically different from the masses, you will be after you read this book. There is compelling thinking that challenges our expectations and thinking on every page, but in a gentle way. The book does not preach. It investigates and takes us along with. Clear and compelling writing and thinking by Alice Domurat Dreger that opened my mind and made this boo ...more
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nonfiction aficionados; health geeks
Recommended to Mara by: John Green
Fascinating and well-argued, this book documents the current medical practices surrounding separation of conjoined twins. Reviewing medical history, specific case studies, and interviews with living conjoined twins, Dreger constructs a counter-narrative to the predominate view that conjoined twins face a biomedical problem that is best addressed through corrective surgery.

Made me feel like disability rights are the next frontier for human rights advocacy and change in the modern world.
Christian Hendriks
My high rating is maybe an exaggeration: I just so strongly care about the topics of the book that I am tempted to rate it higher than it perhaps deserves.

That being said, what I really like about One of Us is the author's heightened attention to people's difference and what this means for people's lives. The book is readable and attempts to read common contemporary attitudes to how people require others' bodies to look a particular way.
Jacob Hale
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this easily readable, engaging, and humanizing book, Alice Dreger powerfully calls into question the concepts of normal and abnormal. This builds on her earlier work on intersexuality. Without being anti-medicine, she calls for greater attention to the experiences of those who historically have been put under the surgeon's knife before they are able to consent (or dissent) -- as a matter of better medicine, better social policy, and better philosophy.
This was a really thorough, excellent exploration of the ethical questions around society's assumptions about conjoined twins. I could think of only a few points she didn't bring up and explore thoroughly, pro and con. It's rare to see so much thought and care go into any book these days. If this is about one of the tiniest minorities imaginable, it still has resonance and implications for everyone else on the planet.
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating work of medical history which surveys changing attitudes among the public and medical professionals in the 19th and 20th centuries towards conjoined twins (and other people born with atypical bodies). Dreger draws parallels between their struggle for respect and those of other minority groups during various civil rights movements.
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: medical professionals etc
Shelves: non-fiction
Dreger is a great writer. Academic easy reading is always a plus for me. She makes some really well constructed points about our culture's reactions to conjoined twins. I really enjoyed her honest, non pretentious writing style. The comic relief here and there is nice too. I can't wait to read more by this author.
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2016
Very thought provoking and interesting but occasionally over-the-top. At one point she used the phrase "normate hegemony" and it kind of felt like she was accusing the "normal bodied" of actively oppressing those with different anatomies.

Overall though this book gave me a whole new lens through which to view people who don't fit the typical anatomical mold.
Tana Schiewer
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting look not only at the ways in which we regard and talk about conjoined twins, but also how we talk about "disability" and "otherness" altogether. Dreger's use of stories and her casual writing style make this a very readable book.
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Alice Dreger is a Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University.

"In a phrase, I do social justice work in medicine and science. I do that through my research, writing, speaking, and advocacy. . . Much of my professional energies has gone to using history to improve the medical and social treatment of people born with norm-challengi
More about Alice Domurat Dreger...

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