Daring, fiercely original, and brilliant, The Women is at once a memoir, a psychological study, a sociopolitical manifesto, and an incisive adventure in literary criticism. It is conceived as a series of portraits analyzing the role that sexual and racial identity played in the lives and work of the writer's subjects. Als begins with his mother, a self-described "Negress", who would not be defined by the limitations of race and gender. He goes on to ask who the mother of Malcolm X was, and shows how her mixed-race background and eventual descent into madness contributed to her son's misogyny and racism. He describes how the brilliant, Harvard-educated Dorothy Dean rarely identified with other blacks or women, but deeply empathized with white gay men. Finally, he portrays the late Owen Dodson, a poet and dramatist who was female-identified and who played an important role in the author's own social and intellectual formation. Als submits both racial and sexual stereotypes to his inimitable scrutiny with relentless humor and sympathy. The results are exhilarating. The Women is that rarest of books: a memorable work of self-investigation that creates a form all its own.