Apr 6, 2015

Blog Tour: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

Words cannot express my excitement over being part of this blog tour for a book (and author) I absolutely adore. NONE OF THE ABOVE by I.W. Gregorio took me by complete surprise a few months back and I've been raving about the book ever since.

Q & A with Lianne Simon, intersex author
by I. W. Gregorio
In None of the Above, my main character Kristin discovers her senior year that she has an intersex condition called Complete Androgen Instensitivity Syndrome (CAIS). One of the most important things to know about the term intersex, though, is that it’s an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of biological conditions with extreme variations in sexual anatomy.
Today, I’m delighted to interview Lianne Simon, an intersex woman whose novel Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite features a main character with a very different intersex condition than Kristin. The brilliant A.S. King pointed out to me in the early days of the We Need Diverse Books Campaign that there’s diversity within diversity, and this certainly holds true of people who are intersex.  Read more about Lianne at her website: http://liannesimon.com

1. When did you discover you were intersex, and what did that mean for you
Lianne as a child
growing up?
As a child I never had a name for my condition. Even today—what would you call a boy who has most of the symptoms of a girl with Turner Syndrome—including an XO cell line and gonads that are part streak ovary? All I knew was that I was the smallest of my peer group, had a cute pixie face, and was so frail that my family worried about losing me.

In grade school I grew much more aware of my parents’ desire for me to be a boy. And my own inability to become one. As the guys around me matured, my own lack of sexual development became more obvious. 
By the time I saw an endocrinologist, I was tired of people questioning my gender. The doctor didn’t think I’d have any trouble being accepted as a girl, and I was happy with how feminine my appearance had become relative to my peers, so I chose estrogen over testosterone and agreed to surgery to feminize my little half-boy genitals.

2. A few years ago, you published a novel, Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite. What made you want to write this novel? Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication? 
My husband and I used to go to a business conference in Phoenix every summer. On a particularly hot day, we skipped the meetings and drove out to Tortilla Flat—a spectacularly scenic route, mind you. The next morning I woke up with an overwhelming need to tell the story of an intersex kid coming to terms with her condition and gender. When I told my husband that I wanted to quit my six figure job, he grimaced, nodded his head, and supported me in my new venture. Two years and a dozen manuscripts later, I completed Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite, which was based loosely on my own childhood.

Lianne growing up
My publisher, MuseItUp Publishing, is a small but traditional Canadian press. During the query process, I spoke with several agents, but discovered that they either didn’t know how to market my book or were freaked out about my being intersex. Diversity didn’t seem to include an openly intersex novelist. So I submitted the manuscript directly to publishers without mentioning my history. 

MuseItUp has a digital-first policy and allows their authors to take the post-edit e-book galleys and arrange for the paperback themselves. So I started a micro-publisher to format and market that edition.

3. I struggled a lot with whether to use the outdated term "hermaphrodite" in my novel. Can you tell me about your choice to use it in the title of your book?
My initial title for the book was Faie. That’s a Middle English word for enchanted. The main character in the book—in her childhood imagination at least—considered herself an elfin princess. That aspect of the story grew out of an old genealogy book that claimed my sept of the Kirkpatrick clan had interbred with the Daoine-S├Čth—the people of the fairy mounds. 
When I started sending out queries, I renamed the book Growing Up Intersex. Unfortunately, that resulted in quite a few rejections that indicated they misunderstood the word intersex.

Before I sent the manuscript directly to publishers, I changed the name to Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite, figuring that might stir the pot. I got three offers to publish soon after that.

I tried to talk my editor into changing the title back to Growing Up Intersex, but my publisher would have none of it.
Ordinarily I refer to myself as intersex female, but I don’t have any objection to the word hermaphrodite. In my case, it’s an accurate medical term for my having a mix of testicular and ovarian tissue. It does tend to confuse people who are more familiar with mythology, but I still like it better than DSD.

4. What was your initial reaction to reading None of the Above?
Lianne as an adult
I’m not the best person to be reviewing books with intersex main characters. I can get really picky about the medical and social details. On the other hand, when the author does their homework, the story can be too triggering for me. The opening line for one review I wrote said, “Not since Herculine Barbin’s autobiography has a book so thoroughly opened up old wounds.”

I approached None of the Above with some trepidation, but was pleased that although it presented an accurate portrayal of intersex, with plausible consequences of uncontrolled disclosure, the theme was familiar enough that the book proved a pleasant read. I’d recommend it as a great introduction to intersex, especially for anyone who has a friend with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.

5. What would you like to see in future books with intersex characters?
Intersex is an umbrella term for a wide variety of sex differences. We are perhaps more diverse than most other sexual minorities. I’d like the experiences of more individuals to be represented. And in a positive light. I’d also like to see more intersex people share stories based on their own histories.

About the Author:
I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her debut novel, None of theAbove (Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins). She is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books™ and serves as its VP of Development. A recovering ice hockey player, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Visit her on her websiteTwitterTumblrFacebook, and GoodReads for her latest news.
None of the Above will be available in stores and online on April 7, 2015.

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The Midnight Garden             Tuesday 3/31        What is Intersex?
YA Romantics                        Wednesday 4/1     5 Ways Writing is Way Harder Than Medicine
The Reading Date                 Thursday 4/2         5 Inspiring LGBTQI Books That Can, and Will, Change Lives
Supernatural Snark                Friday 4/3             Writing What You Don't Know
The Irish Banana                    Monday 4/6          Interview with Lianne Simon, intersex author 


  1. This myth is a great one to post. I definitely think that it's far from a lack of interest in the subject and more of a matter of complete obliviousness and ignorance.

  2. I really love the cover of None of the Above, its interesting but simple which makes it nice.

  3. This is so interesting - I knew nothing about intersex before this tour, but now I know I am DEFINITELY getting my hands on None of the Above one way or the other and I'm very interested in Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite!

  4. Very interesting indeed and a doctor / YA author to boot :)

  5. Wow. Just wow. Before this I knew very little about intersex. I think/hope t books like these will educate the public about a brand of people that has been so long ignored.

  6. Wow. Just wow. Before this I knew very little about intersex. I think/hope t books like these will educate the public about a brand of people that has been so long ignored.

  7. While all the posts on this tour have been great, I think this one might be the one I found most educational. I really appreciated this interview, and I appreciate your being a gracious host for it.

    Thanks for participating in the tour, Hannah!

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  8. Extremely educational and eye-opening interview. I didn't know the author was intersex. It must have been both gratifying and terrifying to write an intersex protagonist.

  9. Extremely educational and eye-opening interview. I didn't know the author was intersex. It must have been both gratifying and terrifying to write an intersex protagonist.


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