Becoming Female and Male: Our Extraordinary and Perilous Journey
by Ramon Piñon, Jr.
BookVenture Publishing LLC

"A moment’s reflection will convince us that the development of an individual from the fertilized egg must be incredibly complex."

Life is a word that all of us experience but few of us truly understand, often adorned with words like wonder and mystery for all the odds-beating it takes to create a human being. Examining the reproductive system of men and women from the earliest stages of development to postpubertal function and performance, this book seeks to offer readers a glimpse into what makes the creation of life possible and all of the factors that can affect it.

The first five chapters of the book (and its three appendices) cover the physiology behind this: genes and chromosomes that determine an individual’s sexual organs, inhibitors and receptors that lead to hormone production, the transition into adulthood, and how our bodies respond to the absence of such factors when reproduction is no longer possible. The following six chapters take a wider look and consider various aspects of parenthood, fertility, pregnancy risks, and birth control. Injecting some of the latest scientific discoveries with an anatomical look of how our bodies react to the birth of a child provides an old-meets-new perspective that will enlighten the reader and give them a fuller understanding of the subject matter. Giving focus to so many topics surrounding the genesis of life and the microscopic divergences that lead to such a broad array of humanity will give interested readers ample information to chew on and digest, enabling them to comprehend all the complex, unseen mechanisms that can be so easily ignored or taken for granted.

Designed for the lay reader, this book is adapted from a previous textbook written by the author to shine a light on the numerous developments and functions of the human reproductive system. Taking such a complex and (even through the lens of modern medicine) mysterious subject, Piñon utilizes medical illustrations and historical anecdotes to great effect, not only explaining the science behind how our bodies work but also how our understanding came to be shaped throughout history. This method shows the evolution of science itself, highlighting the truth that understandings can change and how with so much still not understood about the genital development of the human body or the reasons and methods of its organs, what we take as fact now could change with every discovery.

As a scientific text, there is plenty of further reading, technical terminology, and details omitted for comprehension’s sake, but the author does a wonderful job of compiling all of this into the appendix section. This way, readers with questions will be given a roadmap to satiate their curiosity, while those who stick to the main text will still have so much more knowledge at their disposal. The later chapters concerning technological advancements and scientific discoveries in the areas of pregnancy complications, birth defects, birth control, and the relatively new field of assisted reproduction could be massively useful to prospective parents who aren’t afraid to learn the hows and whys of everything they can consider in order to start or grow a family.

Despite tackling a topic that can be seen by some as inappropriate or too complicated for the average person to understand, the author injects an incredible amount of humanity into a subject that is, by its nature, inherently human. The information can be a lot to process, but it reads like advice and guidance from a family physician instead of a textbook for highly specialized medical students and gives anybody interested a chance to understand some of that vaunted “mystery” of life.

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