Kyra Cornelius Kramer is an author and freelance medical anthropologist. She had BS degrees in both biology and anthropology from the University of Kentucky, as well as a MA in medical anthropology from Southern Methodist University. She and her beloved husband live in Bloomington, IN with their three young daughters, who are codenamed Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup to both preserve their anonymity and to salute one of their favorite cartoons, Power Puff Girls.
The Kramers also have assorted pets, including a diabetic, incontinent, and nearly blind 15 year old Yorkie who is named Penfold because his personality is that of the hamster sidekick in Danger Mouse. Penfold still enjoys a high quality of life, despite his many ailments. His days consist of barking demandingly to be fed or released into the back yard, eating expensive food that has been warmed and mashed up for him, and making tinkle uncontrollably. His owners have decided to look on the bright side and have used his condition as an excuse to install the easily-mopped hardwood floors they have always yearned for.
The Kramers are also joined occasionally by Kyra’s mother and father, who journey northward from Kentucky in order to dote upon their grandchildren. Kyra uses this as an excuse to feverishly type away on the computer without interruptions. Most of Kyra’s oeuvre has been written while Granny and Papaw have been in residence to settle X-box disputes and make after-school snacks. That’s why Blood Will Tell is dedicated to her parents Wanda and Lewis Cornelius. She has promised to dedicate her next book to her husband, provided he continues to do most of the cooking so that she can have more time to write. This works out well for everyone, since the author is a lousy cook while her husband quite a good one.
The author has be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Kyra is high-functioning, meaning that most of the time Kyra can pass for “quirky” with a dash of “gauche”. As a function of being an Aspy, she has a deep and abiding love for facts, which she stuffs into her writings like chestnuts in a Christmas goose. Seriously, you will knee-deep in facts by the time you are three paragraphs into her work. Moreover, she has a sardonic sense of humor that flavors her writings, no matter how academic they are in nature. Her editors appreciate this, but the review board usually makes her take any humor out before publishing in a peer reviewed journal. Kyra hopes that the academic reviewers were at least amused before they crossed the sentence out with heavy red pencil marks. She suspects not.
What on Earth is a Medical Anthropologist?
A medical anthropologist is someone who studies how a culture thinks about, deals with, and treats a medical issue.
Kyra went to graduate school to study the medical anthropology of reproduction. She expected to be interviewing midwives and pregnant women for the rest of her life, but during her research she discovered male-mediated negative reproductive outcomes and became enthralled. She decided to make that her specialty, because God forbid she do anything normal like the other medical anthropologists.
What is male-mediated negative reproductive outcomes when it’s at home? Simply put, it is a study of the fact that when something goes wrong in human reproduction – such as infertility or miscarriage, stillbirth, or any other heartbreaking outcome – the reason for that negative outcome can be paternal in nature. The causes can be biological, environmental, or self-inflicted. A biological example of male-mediated fetal harm would be the fact that the chances of having a child with a birth defect increase with the age of the father. Environmental factors are substances men are unknowingly exposed to from their surroundings or in their jobs that may impair their ability to have healthy children, such as toxic metals or chemical byproducts. Self-inflicted reproductive problems are those caused by voluntary or semi-voluntary behaviors, like smoking.
As a medical anthropologist, Kyra wanted to know why the scientific evidence of men’s role in reproduction was largely ignored by or unknown to medical providers. Reproduction was almost solely focused on women in American culture and medicine. The medical and social debates about reproductive issues – including such contentious topics as abortion, women’s reproductive freedom, assignation of maternal blame, new reproductive technologies, and childbirth practices – have concentrated almost exclusively on women’s behavior. Men’s effects on human procreation has been largely ignored in the mainstream media and most people (even physicians) didn’t have an inkling that it occurs. Kyra wanted to know why the subject of paternal responsibility in the reproductive process was so infrequently addressed.
She found out the short answer is sexism. From a cultural standpoint, women are seen as the baby-havers and the only function of men is to donate a sperm cell. This ideology is a disservice to both genders. Since doctors used to believe (and some have never learned any different) a warped sperm cell couldn’t fertilize an egg, a man’s role in the pregnancy was considered golden if he could just get a woman knocked-up. Once a woman was up the pole, it was assumed the man had no further influence on the fetus because the woman was the one gestating it. If something went wrong during pregnancy, it was QED the mama’s “fault”.
The woman-only paradigm of reproduction is hokum.
A study of 150 factory workers exposed to lead showed those with higher lead levels had impaired fertility, and other studies have indicated that men with high lead levels in their blood were associated with an increased risk of spontaneous abortions in their wives. Men who work around pesticides also appear to be at high risk. The pregnant partners of male grape garden sprayers are 5.5 times more likely to have a miscarriage. Males who apply pesticides to crops are 1.4 times more likely to have offspring with a birth defect, particularly respiratory, circulatory, and urogenital defects. Research has suggested that paternal tobacco use is also associated with central nervous system anomalies and congenital heart defects. There is good evidence that cocaine and crack can “piggyback” in seminal fluid, and opiates (such as heroin) causes defects in sperm that would lead infertility and fetal loss. Studies have been done that found significantly higher incidences of low birth weight and congenital heart defects in the newborns of men who had consumed large amounts of alcohol prior to the baby’s conception. While these examples alone are frightening, Kyra discovered that they were merely the tip of the research iceberg.
Why Did a Medical Anthropologist Write a Book About Henry VIII?
Kyra may be a medical anthropologist, but she is also a longstanding history buff.
As a freshman in high school she discovered the books of Jean Plaidy. Jean Plaidy wrote historical fiction, and Kyra became hooked on the genre. Some of her favorite books by Plaidy, including Katharine of Aragon and Murder Most Royal, were about the wives of King Henry VIII. The interest in Henry’s wives infected Kyra with a lust to know more about Henry himself, which was followed in short order by reading nonfictional works about him written by professional/academic historians like J.J. Scarisbrick as well as by amateur/lay historians like Alison Weir. Kyra maintained this curiosity about Henry VIII and continued to gobble up fiction and nonfiction books about the Tudors.
Once she was in grad school and had the information about male-mediated negative reproductive outcomes rattling around in her head, Kyra became convinced Henry VIII was the common factor in the poor reproductive track records of his six wives. From a feminist, anthropological, and medical perspective it seemed blindingly obvious to her.
To read more about how the theory about a possible cause of Henry VIII’s reproductive woes came to be and how it was turned into a book, follow this link to the webpage devoted to Blood Will Tell.
Are There Other Topics the Author Writes About?
Kyra has also written papers published in peer reviewed journals about the anthropology of the body, particularly feminist theories regarding the body and culture. Feminism and anthropology of the body are connected because 1) culture is “written” on the body and 2) women have been viewed by Western philosophy, religion, and science as inherently defined by their body. Feminist theory argues that women are people beyond their biological functions.
Historically, women’s bodies have been constructed as the abnormal counterpart of the “normal” body, which just happens to be a white, heterosexual male body. There is an unspoken cultural assumption that there is something “weird” about the female body because it does non-man stuff like gestate babies and menstruate, which created a need for feminist theories to refute this idea. Women have been conceptualized by both historical and modern science as slaves to their biology. This means scientists who should know better are always churning out reasons for female behavior that is usually mythical. For example, women are not “naturally monogamous” any more than men are “naturally promiscuous”. Both genders can maintain a romantic relationship without cheating, and both genders cheat on their partners. Many feminist theorists are devoted to exposing the cultural stereotypes behind some scientific “findings” that turn out to be malarkey when the data is cross-examined.
Finally, women’s bodies are often ground zero in the battle for women’s rights, the location of such feminist issues such as rape, abortion, military participation, politics, and economics. Frankly, a lot of feminism itself is about a woman’s right control of her own body.
She uses her training in feminism and anthropology to study popular culture, most notably romance novels.
Who Takes Romance Novels Seriously?
Quite a few people, actually. There are several books of academic analysis about romance novels, such as New Approaches to Popular Romantic Fiction, A Natural History of the Romance Novel, For Love and Money, and Reading the Romance among others. Many colleges and universities are teaching courses about romance novels now, including Duke, Yale, Syracuse, DePaul, Harvard, and The University of Auckland. There are even peer-reviewed academic journals dedicated to the critical analysis of the romance genre, such as the Journal of Popular Romance Studies.
Other Works By This Author
“There Are Six Bodies in This Relationship: An Anthropological Approach to the Romance Genre” in Journal of Popular Romance Studies, Issue 1.1, August 2010, co-authored with Dr. Laura Vivanco.
Kyra was the secondary author on this essay with Dr. Laura Vivanco, who is a big cheese in popular romance studies and a very nice person. This paper looks at the concepts of the Mighty Wang and Glittery HooHa, because romance scholars frequently shanghai phrases that would otherwise be mocked. Romance scholars are fierce and will not be trifled with. While researching and collaborating this paper, Kyra found out that Dr. Vivanco brilliant. Later, on a trip to Scotland, she discovered Dr. Vivanco gives excellent tours of Edinburgh.
“A New Explanation of the Reproductive Woes and Midlife Decline of Henry VIII” in The Historical Journal, Volume 53, Issue 04, December 2010, pp 827-848, Cambridge University Press 2010, co-authored with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley
Clearly this paper is seed from which Blood Will Tell sprouted. It was co-written with Dr. Catrina Banks Whitley, who is a bioarcheologist. Dr. Whitley was the one who delved into the biomedical nitty-gritty about a Kell positive blood type and McLeod syndrome while Kyra found the historical events that correlated with the symptoms Henry VIII would have manifested as a result of these medical conditions. Dr. Whitley is now one of the research associates at the New Mexico Office of Archeological Affairs. A paper published in 2013 in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, “Henry VIII, McLeod syndrome and Jacquetta’s curse”, (Volume 43, Issue 4) offered both critiques and more medical evidence about the Kell/McLeod theory.
“Raising Veils and Other Bold Acts: The Heroine’s Agency in Female Gothic Novels” in Studies in Gothic Fiction, Volume 1, no. 2: (2011) pg. 23 – 36, Zittaw Press
This is an essay Kyra wrote regarding the ability of the Female Gothic heroine to influence her own fate, in contrast to heroines in other genres both historic and modern. Heroines, far too often for far too long, have been “passive” players in their own stories, wherein events happen to them and they react to these events by being rescued by an active hero. Not so the heroine of the Female Gothic.Those women were raiding tombs 200 years before Lora Croft, even if they fainted while they did it. If you are interested in the Gothic genre, you can see more articles like this one at Studies in Gothic Fiction.
“Getting Laid, Getting Old, and Getting Fed: The Cultural Resistance of Jennifer Crusie’s Romance Heroines” in Journal of Popular Romance Studies, Issue 2.2, April 2012
Romantic heroines are often beautiful, whether the character is aware of it or not. They have also tended to be thin, young, and until the 1990s they were usually virginal as well. Although the emphasis on virgins has fallen by the wayside in the last 10 years (with the exception of historical romances which have virginal heroines to conform to the norms of the time period), heroines have remained mostly thin and young. Kyra noticed that Jennifer Crusie was one of the first and most popular authors to have heroines who were something other than thin, young, virgins. Kyra also noticed that the bodies of Crusie’s heroines could be understood as sites of feminist resistance, and wrote a paper about it.
What is the Author Doing Now?
Currently Kyra is working on her next book, which is about the slut shaming of historically famous queens. She is also researching a papers on the high incidence of agoraphobia among Appalachian women and trying to solve the mystery of the use of “ice vine” in Appalachian folk medicine. She does this in her “free time” when not doing all the parenting things inherent in being a stay at home parent.The author is considering getting caffeine injected intravenously. Or Xanax. The author is undecided
Is There Anything Else About the Author the Reader Should Know?.
The author finds it really, really weird to write about herself in the third person.