Ask Me About My Uterus by Abby Norman
Published by Nation Books on March 6, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 3.74 (as of 03/11/2018)
cw: assault, eating disorders, attempted suicide, domestic abuse
Spoiler-free Review of an eARC Provided by the Publisher and Netgalley
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.
It’s kind of strange: when I enter into conversations with medical professionals outside of the office, they ask where I went to medical school. When I was in the office as a patient, however, I just got asked if I ‘Googled a lot’ before coming into the office.
I knew I had to request this the moment I saw it on Netgalley. The incredibly gorgeous cover drew me in right away and the blurb cemented my decision to give it a try. And I am so, so glad that I did. This memoir follows Abby Norman in her experiences with endometriosis. I don’t know about y’all, but I knew next to nothing about endo before reading this. I had no idea what a difficult, debilitating disease it was or how little is known about it by modern medicine. To say that this book is extremely educational feels like an understatement.
Was being sick making her depressed or was depression making her sick? How many of us have asked the same question, or ask it almost daily as we slog forward in time? It’s the ouroboros of pain from which we cannot escape, no matter how hard we try, unequivocally felt by us and questioned by everyone else — until we, too, are forced to doubt the veracity of our reality.
Abby specifies right from the start that this book is meant to be a jumping-off point for readers, and not their sole source of information regarding endometriosis. She makes it clear that this is her story, and not meant to speak for anyone else. This explanation includes acknowledging that she comes from a place of relative privilege and urging the reader to seek out more diverse experiences. She also points out that calling endometriosis a women’s disease is a misnomer, as both trans men and cis men can suffer from it.
If history had been told by women, would we not be so in the dark about a disease that has, theoretically, always existed?
Her own experiences are downright heartbreaking to read. When symptoms begin to appear, Abby ignores them as long as possible before going to the hospital, something I can certainly relate to. Her voice is repeatedly silenced by medical professionals, mostly male, who downplay the severity of what she is going through. She is able to intertwine her own story with facts and figures, as well as historical parallels.
First-person accounts by women throughout history are limited by a peculiar social paradox: menstruation is both mundane and wildly taboo.
Abby’s voice comes through strong and clear in her writing and I found this book difficult to put down. She is a strong, sympathetic character and you’re forced to keep turning the pages in the hopes that things will get better. This book feels like a vitally important read, not only because of the information relayed, but also because it is relayed in such a way that the reader can’t help but take it all in. This is not a dry piece of nonfiction, but the compelling story of a woman fighting for her diagnosis.
(All quotes have been taken from an uncorrected proof and may have been changed in the final publication.)