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December 4, 1996

The Tyranny of the Normal: An Anthology

Author Affiliations

Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta, Ga

JAMA. 1996;276(21):1761-1762. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540210067039

This review has a twist probably unforeseen by the editors of JAMA when they requested that I do it, but more of that later. First, to the book.

The title, borrowed from Leslie Fiedler, refers to the attitudes that Society expresses to "pressure abnormal people to change their appearance, fix what bothers others, or stay out of sight." Therefore, "one of the purposes of the anthology is to encourage those working or living with others outside the norms to be more inclusive and understanding." Theirs is an ambitious goal, considering that virtually all recorded cultures have stigmatized, in one way or another, those that fell outside accepted norms in appearance, size, function, or any other gauge which that culture decreed as acceptable. From the Bible (Leviticus 21: 1-24: "and the Lord said to Moses... none of your descendants... who has a deformity... shall come near the veil or approach the