Persistent Cloaca: Background information when reading Miss Jane

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Miss Jane

by Brad Watson

Miss Jane by Brad Watson X
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2017, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book

Persistent Cloaca

This article relates to Miss Jane

Print Review

Miss Jane is based on Brad Watson's great-aunt's life. She, like the central character in his novel, suffered from a genital birth defect. But what exactly was it?

In an interview at W.W. Norton, Watson says:

As was common in her day (she actually lived from 1888-1975, but it applies to my Jane's day and time, too), no one really talked about it. And so no one alive by the time I came into the world really knew "what was wrong with Aunt Jane."… One of the more difficult parts of my research was figuring out what her condition may have been. I had little to go on: her known incontinence, and a late discovery that she had only one opening for the elimination of waste, which led me down a long path of crossing out this and that possibility. Based on those two facts, and some things I learned doing research, and the fact that she lived a long and apparently otherwise healthy life, I finally decided she probably had something called persistent cloaca, a rare condition that occurs only in females and only in about 1 in 20,000-25,000 births.

As a baby develops in utero, three openings are supposed to evolve to become the urinary, genital and intestinal tracts. Before this separation, the three are joined together in a sac called cloaca. If they fail to separate – as was probably the case for Watson's great-aunt – the result is the condition called persistent cloaca.

The condition is most often discovered at birth. Along with just having one opening, the newborn may also have abdominal swelling. An ultrasound can show the specific location of the swelling (in the rectum, vagina and bladder.) X-rays and an endoscopy further illuminate what can not be seen, and an MRI of the pelvis and spine are often done to look for spinal defects. These days, surgery can be done to repair and reconstruct these openings. A colostomy is often needed first. Catheterization is needed as well, to drain urine. Reconstruction happens after the child's anatomy is clearly defined, which occurs at around 6 months to a year old. The one opening is divided into three. In mild cases of persistent cloaca the end result is nearly normal control of bodily functions. More severe cases can result in occasional to persistent leaking, and some need further self-catheterization. After surgery, normal sexual activity is possible.

None of these diagnostic tests or surgeries were available, of course, when Miss Jane was born. As Watson writes, "Miss Jane" was born into that time and place, in the farmland cut from the pine and broadleaf woods of east-central Mississippi, 1915, when there was no possibility of doing anything to alleviate her condition, no medical procedure to correct it…It was something to be accepted, grim-faced, as they accepted crop failure, debt, poverty, the frequent deaths of infants and small children from fevers and other maladies." Although Jane ultimately finds her own way to lead a full and fulfilling life, modern science and medicine have paved the way, thankfully, for girls and women to have an easier time of it.

This "beyond the book article" relates to Miss Jane. It originally ran in July 2016 and has been updated for the July 2017 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The World According to Fannie Davis
    The World According to Fannie Davis
    by Bridgett M. Davis
    Devoted daughter Bridgett M. Davis was always inspired by her mother Fannie, who provided stability,...
  • Book Jacket: Territory of Light
    Territory of Light
    by Yuko Tsushima
    Set in Tokyo during the late 1970s, Yūko Tsushima's Territory of Light chronicles a year in the...
  • Book Jacket: Unmarriageable
    Unmarriageable
    by Soniah Kamal
    Soniah Kamal makes no secret of the fact that her novel Unmarriageable is a retelling of Jane Austen...
  • Book Jacket: The Paragon Hotel
    The Paragon Hotel
    by Lyndsay Faye
    Lyndsay Faye's arresting The Paragon Hotel focuses on how disparate groups of marginalized people ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Half-Life of Everything
by Deborah Carol Gang

A beautifully written and uplifting debut novel.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Night Tiger
    by Yangsze Choo

    "Wonderfully combines a Holmes-esque plot with Chinese lore."
    --PW, starred review
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Lost Man
    by Jane Harper

    A stunning standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Cherokee America

Cherokee America
by Margaret Verble

An epic novel from the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Maud's Line.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P C, Absolute P C A

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.