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Autobiography of a Faceby Lucy Grealy
I read this during a formative period when I was not a teenager anymore but not quite an adult. It was perfect timing. All of my foibles and insecurities were obliterated with this poignant memoir of a girl who has a rare type of bone cancer in her jaw and undergoes surgery and later reconstructive surgery all through her teens and 20s. Written as fiction but based on Lucy Grealy's real experiences, it destroys all your own personal vanities and superficial anxieties.
Synopses & Reviews
When he was three, in the early 1970s, Benjamin Anastas found himself in his mothers fringe-therapy group in Massachusetts, a sign around his neck: Too Good to Be True. The phrase haunted him through his life, even as he found the literary acclaim he sought after his 1999 novel, An Underachievers Diary, had made the smart set take notice. Too Good to Be True is his deeply moving memoir of fathers and sons, crushing debt and infidelity—and the first, cautious steps taken toward piecing a life back together.
“It took a long time for me to admit I had failed,” Anastas begins. Broke, his promising literary career evaporated, hes hounded by debt collectors as he tries to repair a life ripped apart by the spectacular implosion of his marriage, which ended when his pregnant wife left him for another man. Had it all been too good to be true? Anastass fierce love for his young son forces him to confront his own childhood, fraught with mental illness and divorce. His fathers disdain for money might have been in line with the 70s zeitgeist—but what does it mean when youre dumping change into a Coinstar machine, trying to scrounge enough to buy your son a meal? Charged with rage and despair, humor and hope, this unforgettable book is about losing ones way and finding it again, and the redemptive power of art.
"In this elegant, unsparing memoir, poet Lucy Grealy quietly discusses the psychological repercussions of her bout with bone cancer. Stricken at the age of nine, Grealy endured years of chemotherapy and the removal of almost half her jaw. The undeniable pressure her condition placed on her family made her feel obscurely responsible for her own illness. Yet upon recovering, she found that coming of age with her face disfigured and further misshapen by the uneven results of reconstructive surgery proved to be perhaps more painful. The taunts of her schoolmates and the haplessness of adults who avoided her gaze prompted Grealy's increasing sense of isolation. Yet ultimately what is most memorable is not the author's abjection but her remarkable resilience, expressed in unsentimental, tautly controlled prose." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"Grealy has turned her misfortune into a book that is engaging and engrossing, a story of grace as well as cruelty." Washington Post Book World
"This is a young woman's first book, the story of her own life, and both book and life are unforgettable." A.G. Mojtabai, The New York Times Book Review
"[H]arrowing, lyrical....[Grealy's] discovery that true beauty lies within makes this a wise and healing book." Publishers Weekly
"[A] book you want to hand to people saying only, 'Read it.'...It's no surprise Grealy is a tremendously powerful writer: she saved her own life by telling herself stories to live by. Now she'll change our lives by sharing them." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"[G]racefully written....An unsentimental, honest, unflinching look at a single visage reflected (or distorted) in an unforgiving cultural mirror. A strong debut." Kirkus Reviews
"This lucid and elegant memoir traces one woman's journey toward a self defined internally rather than by its reflection in society's mirrors." Anndee Hochman, Philadelphia Inquirer
"A beautifully composed work of literature... Autobiography of a Face is also a moving meditation on ugliness and beauty, of particular significance in a culture obsessed with the outward self." Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times Book Review
Acclaimed writer Benjamin Anastass searing, utterly moving memoir of fathers and sons, crushing debt and infidelity, and the first, cautious steps taken towards piecing a life back together.
"I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I've spent fifteen years being treated for nothing other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison."
At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. In this strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. Vividly portraying the pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special, Grealy captures with unique insight what it is like as a child and young adult to be torn between two warring impulses: to feel that more than anything else we want to be loved for who we are, while wishing desperately and secretly to be perfect.
About the Author
Lucy Grealy, an award-winning poet, was born in Ireland in 1963. She lived in the UK and in Germany but spent most of her life in New York, where she grew up, and where she died in 2002. She also published a collection of essays, As Seen on TV: Provocations.
Table of Contents
1 Luck 14
2 Petting Zoo 29
3 The Tao of Laugh-In 53
4 Fear Itself 69
5 Life on Earth 88
6 Door Number Two 103
7 Masks 118
8 Truth and Beauty 140
9 World of Unknowing 160
10 The Habits of Self-Conciousness 176
11 Cool 191
12 Mirrors 205
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