Book Review: XOXY: A Memoir by Kimberly Zielseman

Zielseman, Kimberly. XOXY: A Memoir. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2020. $18.95. 288p. PB. ISBN9781785928376. 

Looking for something to read this summer? Kimberly Zieselman’s memoir and 2021 Stonewall Honor book offers a unique perspective on a topic that is not often written about.  

Zieselman begins her memoir recounting the moment she found out she was intersex at the age of 41. From this striking beginning, Zieselman then takes the reader back to describe her childhood and upbringing. Outside of an operation in which she is led to believe she was having her uterus and partially formed ovaries removed due to worries about a possible cancer risk, her childhood and early adulthood proceed smoothly. Zieselman goes to college, attends law school, meets her husband, gets married and they adopt two daughters from China together. It is only when her doctor of 14 years leaves her in an exam room to look at her medical records that she finds out that she is intersex.  

The reader follows Zieselman as she works through the many emotions of finding out she is intersex. She finds connections through social media to other members of the intersex community and slowly begins to embrace her new self. She interweaves her journey of self-discovery with her own story of being a working woman, mother, and wife. Eventually her increased involvement in the intersex community leads her to a career in activism working for interACT.    

Throughout her memoir, Zieselman also highlights her struggles with the medical community. From the doctor who lied about her teenage surgery to her longtime doctor who waits 14 years to tell Zieselman she is intersex, she details the prejudice and misunderstandings that the medical community has about people who are intersex and how their fumbled attempts to do right often lead them to harm those they are supposedly trying to help.  

This book is an important addition to the LGBTQIA+ catalog as there are very few books on this topic. This reviewer applauds Kimberly Zieselman for her bravery in sharing her story and for her continued advocacy.  

 

Review by Kathleen Baril (she, her, hers)

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