For any woman who has experienced illness, chronic pain, or endometriosis comes an inspiring memoir advocating for recognition of women's health issues
In the fall of 2010, Abby Norman's strong dancer's body dropped forty pounds and gray hairs began to sprout from her temples. She was repeatedly hospitalized in excruciating pain, but the doctors insisted it was a urinary tract infection and sent her home with antibiotics. Unable to get out of bed, much less attend class, Norman dropped out of college and embarked on what would become a years-long journey to discover what was wrong with her. It wasn't until she took matters into her own hands -- securing a job in a hospital and educating herself over lunchtime reading in the medical library -- that she found an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis.
In Ask Me About My Uterus, Norman describes what it was like to have her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised. Putting her own trials into a broader historical, sociocultural, and political context, Norman shows that women's bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth. It's time to refute the belief that being a woman is a preexisting condition.
In this disjointed memoir, science writer Norman intertwines her own experiences with endometriosis, a painful immune-system disease occurring primarily in women, with a larger history of the systematic underprivileging of women's health in Western medicine. The book details Norman's numerous failed attempts to receive adequate treatment for her condition. Despite her clear symptoms and repeated hospitalizations, doctors continuously overlooked or dismissed her disease and reports of pain over the years. In one jaw-dropping example, a doctor proposed that her symptoms were most likely connected to her troubled childhood. Meanwhile, Norman also examines "the discourse of the ills of women," pointing to diagnoses of hysteria in women and the unethical practices of male physicians who sexually exploited women in the 19th century. While the connection between her own story and the larger history is clear, Norman's personal experiences are too often positioned as an afterthought, jammed into the sociological and historical narrative. She breathlessly shifts from discussing eight known cases of endometriosis in men to the story of her first period to a history of women dying during childbirth. Readers looking for a more personal and relatable account (as the title suggests) will be disappointed.