Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Spy of the First Person (2017)

This  Final Work by Sam Shepard Reveals His Struggle With Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Shepard explored his condition [ALS] through his writing — in vivid, precise prose that transformed his worsening symptoms into something akin to poetry.  It is an unvarnished, intimate portrait of a man facing the end of his life, as he reflects on his past and observes how his own body has betrayed him.

When Shepard began working on “Spy of the First Person” in early 2016, he could still write by hand. But a few months later, as his illness worsened, that became impossible. So his daughter, Hannah, bought him a recorder, and would set it up by him and leave him to dictate in the garden of his home in Kentucky.

Sam Shepard, NY Times Obit.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Wonder

Why ‘Wonder,’ the Movie, Can’t Best the Book It’s Based On
By MARIA RUSSO NOV. 24, 2017

Like most people who love the best-selling book “Wonder,” I’ve been thrilled by the success of the movie version. It captures beautifully the book’s central premise, that we should choose to be kind and inclusive to people like Auggie Pullman, the protagonist, who was born with facial  deformities that are at first shocking to look at. The young actor Jacob Tremblay, wearing mask like makeup that rearranges his features, gracefully inhabits the role of Auggie not only by showing his pain and vulnerability, but also by convincing us of one of the secret weapons of R. J. Palacio’s  book: Auggie is fun, clever and generous, and the kids who call him “the freak” actually have the most to gain by his friendship. So I feel gratified that the movie seems to be catching on — but also, I’ll admit, a bit wary.



Also see: Wonder, The Movie

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Reclaiming Resilience

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I was in the seventh grade when I first began to identify as trans and express my gender identity as a girl...This shift in my personal aesthetic made me feel good about my body, confident in my appearance and at ease in social settings where my peers were also exploring, changing and growing.


Janet Mock was a black and Native Hawaiian trans girl from a single-parent home. I was not naïve. I knew that struggle was part of my coming of age, so I wore a smile every day as part of my armor. I didn’t want anyone to see that I was in pain, that I felt like I did not belong and that my body, my clothing, my being was wrong.

From NY Times Op-Ed piece 2/23/2017

Janet Mock’s first book, Redefining Realness, is a brilliant, raw, educational journey with a transwoman that takes her from being a child and follows her through hormone therapy and transitional surgery in Thailand.  It is important reading for educators, parents, health professionals and anyone with an open mind.  I listened to the Audible book and that makes the story even more poignant as Janet narrates her own story.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Beyond the Thin Blue Air

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by Lu Spinney

This important and riveting  memoir recounts the devastating injury sustained by the author’s son, Miles, a handsome, bright, and adventurous 29-year-old who crashed while snowboarding in the Alps.

About her book, the author writes, “there is a strange contradiction in writing about a private experience and making it public. I’ve just written a book about a subject that for five years I not only avoided but found bitterly painful to talk about. To discuss my son Miles’s situation with anybody other than family or closest friends felt like a betrayal of his privacy; it was too intensely private to share. And now I’ve written a book about it.

The book reflects on traumatic brain injury, minimal conscious states, long-term care, quality of life, the effects on the family of the injured person and much more.  It will be valuable reading for any health care worker and others interested in these issues.

Monday, July 24, 2017

LIGHTS ON, RATS OUT (2017)

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A Memoir
by Cree LaFavour

“Lights On, Rats Out is unlike anything I’ve ever read―a powerfully, staggeringly honest book that is excruciating in places, and also completely haunting. LeFavour’s intimate account of her relationship with her psychiatrist is intensely compelling, forthright, and brave. Did he overstep? Was he somehow pulled in by her beyond what was therapeutically appropriate or helpful? This is a fascinating memoir in a category of its own.”―Dani Shapiro


See NY Times book review: An Odyssey Through Self-Harm and Out the Other Side




A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara is an important novel in the context of self-harm behavior.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Falling Ill

by C. K. Williams (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
This posthumous collection of poems, written as the author was dying, of multiple myeloma, is a gentle but unflinching confrontation with mortality. Beginning with the moment of diagnosis (“interesting no?”), and signing off with “I want to wish you goodbye but don’t dare,” Williams records the progress of his disease and his halting acceptance of the end of life. A steady lilt, alternately peaceful and hallucinatory, presides over the work, which is devoid of punctuation except for frequent question marks. Uniform in construction, with five three-line stanzas, the poems feel less like a series than like a single valedictory utterance.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Born on the Fourth of July (1976)

In the mid 1960s, suburban New York teenager Ron Kovic enlists in the Marines, fulfilling what he sees as his patriotic duty. During his second tour in Vietnam, he accidentally kills a fellow soldier during a retreat and later becomes permanently paralyzed in battle. Returning home to an uncaring Veterans Administration bureaucracy and to people on both sides of the political divide who don't understand what he went through, Kovic becomes an impassioned critic of the war.

DJE:  This is a powerful book about the Vietnam War, American politics, trauma, paraplegia, activism.  The writing is amazing and memorable.  It is a cry from the heart.