Picks and Pans Review: As Nature Made Him: the Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl

updated 03/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

by John Colapinto

A baby boy suffers a botched circumcision and his young parents are persuaded to raise him as a girl. The 1967 case becomes a hallmark in gender-identity theory, taken as proof of the predominance of nurture over nature. Problem is, no one was paying attention to the boy, David Reimer, particularly the doctors who turned him into "Brenda" when he was 22 months old. No one, that is, until Canadian journalist Colapinto's 1998 expose, which grew into this engaging book. Given access to Reimer's psychiatric files, family and friends, the author reconstructs a horrific tale: a scrappy kid made to wear pink and pearls; a bully of a doctor unwilling to admit failure; a family torn apart by guilt. David's courageous and unlikely victory—today he's a happily married stepfather of three—shows us how psychology's theories du jour can be painfully, dreadfully wrong. (HarperCollins, $26)

Bottom Line: Gut-wrenching, absorbing account

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