A novel inspired by the life of Dr. James Miranda Barry, the 19th century British physician celebrated by some as a transgender hero, is the subject of a History Book Festival virtual program set for 5 p.m., Thursday, July 29.
Award-winning writer E.J. Levy will discuss her debut novel, “The Cape Doctor,” during the Zoom-based program, and a question-and-answer session will follow.
The program is free, but preregistration is required. To reserve a spot, go to historybookfestival.org.
“The Cape Doctor” begins in Cork, Ireland, recounting Jonathan Mirandus Perry’s journey from daughter to son in order to enter medical school. Perry embraces the newfound freedom of living life as a man, progressing from brilliant medical student in Edinburgh and London to eligible bachelor and quick-tempered physician in Cape Town, South Africa. There, Perry befriends the aristocratic Cape governor and ascends to the pinnacle of society before the two are accused of a homosexual affair that scandalizes the colonies and nearly costs them their lives.
The historical Dr. James Barry had a distinguished career in the Royal Army, where he improved medical care for soldiers while also calling for improved living conditions for society’s outcasts. Only after his death in 1865 was it revealed that Dr. Barry had female genitalia.
Though characterized by many contemporaries as a woman masquerading as a man, Dr. Barry has since become celebrated as a transgender hero.
Copies of “The Cape Doctor” are available at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, the official bookseller of the History Book Festival. Biblion in Lewes also has copies of the book for sale. Books purchased at either shop come with a signed archival bookplate.
Presenting sponsors of the 2021 festival are Delaware Humanities and the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty.
In addition to the Lewes Public Library, the festival’s virtual programs are supported by the Delaware Division of Libraries and Sussex County Libraries.
Now in its fifth year, the History Book Festival is the first and only book festival in the United States devoted exclusively to history.