From the Publisher
"...a remarkable document of universal interest.... a tour de force, a wonderful, entertaining and informative book." -- Abraham Verghese
"...dazzling.... What you'll see through her eyes will startle and amaze you." -- Marilyn Yalom The New York Times
"The revolution already has a manifesto in the form of the ebullient Woman: An Intimate Geography. There are other female-positive books hitting the stores - but it's Angier who most decisively lifts the concept of the human female out of its traditional oxymoronic status. You gotta love a self-described female chauvinist sow who writes like Walt Whitman crossed with Erma Bombeck and depicts the vagina as a Rorschach with legs. Woman is a delicious cocktail of estrogen and amphetamine designed to pump up the ovaries as well as the cerebral cortex. " Time Magazine
"In Woman, Angier wields her poetic scalpel to explore female biology, and the result is awesome."—Dr. Susan Love, Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book
"[Angier] is my kind of feminist. Unlike, say, Catherine MacKinnon, she has a sense of humor about the war between the sexes. .... It is the open-mindedness of Woman that is so beguiling. Natalie Angier encourages us to celebrate the diversity of human nature and to realize that the process of cultural evolution is only just beginning."—Erica Jong, The New York Observer
"O joy, O rapture unforeseen! Natalie Angier's fascinating book about the female body is a hilarious romp through, well, our innards. In a deliciously irreverent, energetic, and clear writing style, she demystifies and de-mythicizes women's anatomy and biological workings. Along the way, Angier leaves no metaphor unexplored....She reveals the mysterious universe of women's bodies for even the most scientifically impaired souls. Like the evolution she describes, Angier is self-selecting in what she writes about, but her passion for what make us gals tick is infectious. Her explanation of chromosomes veritably sings. Woman: An Intimate Geography will leave the reader, male or female, in sheer awe of the complexity and power of women's bodies."— Ms. Magazine
"A delightfully mischievous yet serious book on the biology of the female body. Mischievous in that the science is interpreted in terms of modern feminism. It is a great read." — Phillip Sharp, MIT professor and Nobel laureate
"A delighted and delightful book, scientifically intelligent, politically astute, and replete with the intense complexity and fascination of biology. The writing is wonderful and the humor and sensibility are as rare as they are welcome."—Perri Klass, M.D.
"Woman is so captivating I couldn't put it down. It is jam-packed with fascinating, carefully researched facts I never knew before about how we women work. Best of all, Angier's abundant sense of humor and colorful writing style make this an irresistible read for everyone interested in women's bodies and women's health."—Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D., Strong Women Stay Young
"In this witty, learned, adventurous book, Angier gives feminism a cheerful, evolutionary twist. Her deflation of the 'new science of evolutionary psychology' is a brilliant combination of hard science, humor and common sense exactly right."—Katha Pollitt, The Nation
"Angier has brought both her considerable intellect and wry sense of humor to this book. The result is brilliantly accessible and wonderfully subversive."— Dr. Christiane Northrup, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom
"Having occupied a woman’s body for nearly sixty years, I didn’t think any book would have much to teach me. How wrong I was!" — Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, ethologist and author of The Hidden Life of Dogs
"Passion and intelligence meet in a gorgeous book about what it means to be a woman today, yesterday, and forever. Herein lies a fund of knowledge beautifully conveyed, as well as questions that have yet to be answered." Kirkus Reviews
"It's hard not to sound effusive about Woman: An Intimate Geography, since it's fabulous. Angier's book contains more facts about women than anything I've read since the Boston Women's Health Collective published Our Bodies, Our Selves in 1973. My advice about Woman is, get three copies, one for the beach, one for the bathroom and one to read under the covers with a flashlight." Elle
"To read Woman is to banish the gods of negative body image. It is transformative in the way Our Bodies, Our Selves was in the '70s, and no less radical. In fact, if Our Bodies, Our Selves has become the bible of women's bodies, let Woman: An Intimate Geography be our Shakespeare." Mirabella
"It's exhilarating to follow Angier's subversive logic as she dismantles the misogynist mythologies once advanced as the scientific gospel of the female body and replaces them with theories more congenial with the female soul....Angier's brilliant and witty fantasia will inspire women to believe in their powwers." Boston Globe
"One knows early on one is reading a classic—a text so necessary and abundant aand truuuuue that all efforts of its kind, for decades before and after it, will be measured by it. ... After a careful reading of this essential book, men should pass it along to someone they love-—their sons, daughters ... lovers and spouses. For a fresh look into the life's sciences ... and the pure pleasure of language in service to the facts of life, Angier's Woman is as good as it gets."— Thomas Lynch, Los Angeles Times
"The chief manifesto of the new 'femaleist' thinking, this ebullient and provocative treatise on women's bodies reads like a mixture of Walt Whitman and Erma Bombeck."— Barbara Ehrenreich, TIME cover story, "The Truth About Women's Bodies"
The Barnes & Noble Review
If the clothes make the man, as the cliché goes, what makes the woman? Pulitzer Prize-winning Natalie Angier will tell you in her revolutionary new book, Woman: An Intimate Geography. Breathtaking in its scope and depth, this book by the New York Times Science writer offers meditative and informative essays which champion the "fantasia of the female body and mind," exploring every element of what it means to be a woman.
Angier takes us on a tour of the female body, beginning with the egg, the largest cell in the body at a mere tenth of a millimeter in diameter a cell she actually gets to see with her own eyes while witnessing an egg donor in action at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. From there, she dives into the gene pool to swim to the source of femaleness, the X-chromosome, and introduces Jane Carden, a woman born with Y-chromosomes embedded in some of her genes. Due to a mutation called androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), Carden's body ignored the male chromosome, and instead "chose to go girl," though she lacks a uterus, fallopian tubes, a cervix, and inner labia. She had testes in her abdominal cavity, which were removed soon after she was born (they were herniated). Despite these factors, "with her breasts and rounded hips and comparatively slender neck, she can't help but strike the world as a woman."
The story of Jane Carden is not only a riveting case study but also serves to demonstrate the abundance of Angier's knowledge and her keen ability to translate bio-talk into laywoman's terms. Some of this can be attributed toAngier'sthorough research, for she turns to science and medicine to "sketch a working map of the parts that we call female"; Darwin and evolutionary theory to "thrash out the origins of our intimate geography"; and history, art, and literature for insight. But what ultimately distinguishes Woman from other books of its kind is its highly personal and personable narrative voice, which interweaves Angier's quirky humor, undeniable enthusiasm for the subject (she brags about being "a female chauvinist"), and poet's ear for language.
Whether Angier is extolling the virtues of the clitoris, a pleasure-only zone with its 8,000 nerve fibers; probing the vagina ("a Rorschach with legs"); likening the uterus to a muscle hero sandwich and the cervix's appearance to a glazed doughnut; or mocking Western culture's fetishization of women's breasts, she does not compromise subject for humor, nor does she lose focus. She broadens her discussion to include menopause and exercise; claim aggression, fury, and strength as female traits; and confront evolutionary psychologists' theories about the nature of orgasms, maternal love, and female competition, constructing her own theories in the process.
While Angier presumes a female readership, whom she refers to as gals ("I keep thinking, against all evidence, that [this word] is on the verge of coming back into style"), Woman: An Intimate Geography is an important book that should be read by men and women alike. Delivered with authority, brio, and witty irreverence, Angier's book is a crucial and distinctive addition to feminist literature, destined to become a classic alongside Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born, the Boston Women's Health Collective's Our Bodies, Ourselves, Kate Millett's Sexual Politics, and Susan Faludi's Backlash.
Simone de Beauvoir probably would have agreed with Natalie Angier's theory of feminism -- with one exception. De Beauvoir believed women were the biological runners-up in the gender wars; Angier, the stylish, Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer for the New York Times, takes the contrary view. In Woman: An Intimate Geography, she argues that women's bodies are complex, versatile and powerful, and that they often surpass men's. To prove her point, she takes us on a tantalizing, witty journey through female biology, debunking many entrenched stereotypes and myths and a lot of questionable science.
Equipped with an eye for detail and a sure grasp of science, Angier maps the female body -- eggs, uterus, breasts, hormones, brain -- enlisting a remarkable array of studies and little-known facts, as well as examples from history and literature, to offer a feminist take on biology. She explains, for instance, that the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings, twice as many as the penis. "All this," she gloats, "and to no greater purpose than to subserve a woman's pleasure. In the clitoris alone we see a sexual organ so pure of purpose that it needn't moonlight as a secretory or excretory device." She details the power of estrogen on the brain and heart and the complexity of the female chromosome, which boasts thousands of genes, compared to the male counterpart's puny two dozen.
Though Angier toys with some fringe theories about women's biology, including one that suggests female orgasms enhance fecundity, she saves her most trenchant arguments for the evolutionary psychologists, offering a refreshing rebuttal to the gender stereotyping of Robert Wright (The Moral Animal) and David Buss (The Evolution of Desire). Women, these writers believe, are innately less interested in sex, less aggressive and more invested in relationships than men are. Angier unearths numerous exceptions and alternative explanations. DNA studies, for example, show that female chimpanzees risk "life and limb" and the lives of their offspring to cheat on their possessive mates. And if women have lower sex drives than men, Angier argues, you can't blame biology: Cultural mores across the centuries have punished women for their carnal interest.
Unfortunately, Angier has a propensity to engage in cheerleading about everything female, and the result can be sisterhood mush. In a chapter on menstruation, she implores women to celebrate this rite of passage together: "When your daughter or niece or younger sister runs to you and crows, 'It's here!' take her out for a bowl of ice cream or a piece of chocolate cake, and raise a glass of milk to the new life that begins with blood." Moments like this make you wonder whether you're reading an early edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves.
Still, this is a minor quibble about a meaty book. Angier challenges readers to question assumptions about women's bodies and minds. She prods us to understand biology as a feminist tool. And her book provides the analysis and the ammunition with which to do just that.