If you told me I'd enjoy a book about a hermaphrodite that finds their true sexual identity - not my kind of thing! But this is a very serious, well thought out, and comi-tragic novel about Cal. Calliope grew up thinking he was a girl until puberty came and oops! Actually not.
But it's about much more than just that. The novel is epic in scope centering on the history of Calliope's family and exactly how it came to be that two recessive genetic traits wound up in Calliope's genome.
History is in abundance in this book. History of a recessive gene, history of a family, history of World War I, World War II, the United States, Detroit, and history of Calliope, all rolled up into an epic, well interwoven tapestry.
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Middlesex is a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was published in 2002 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003.
The narrator and protagonist, Calliope Stephanides (later called "Cal"), an intersexed person of Greek descent, has 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. The bulk of the novel is devoted to telling his coming-of-age story growing up in Detroit, Michigan in the late 20th century. This story, however, is intertwined with elements of a family saga, meditations on the era's zeitgeist and bits of contemporary history.
The novel begins with the narrator, aged 41, deciding to tell the story of his recessive gene that caused him to be born Calliope and later to become Cal. The narration periodically returns to the frame story of present-day Cal, who is bearded, male and interested in women, foreshadowing the personal revelations of Callie.