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
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.
I was knocked into the present, the unmistakable now, by Joni Friedman's head as it collided with the right side of my jaw. Up until that moment my body had been running around within the confines of a circle of fourth-grade children gathered for a game of dodge ball, but my mind had been elsewhere. For the most part I was an abysmal athlete, and I was deeply embarrassed whenever I failed to jump bravely and deftly into a whirring jumprope, ever threatening to sting if I miscrossed its invisible boundaries, like some science-fiction force field. Or worse, when I was the weak link yet again in the school relay race. How could one doubt that the order in which one was picked for the softball team was anything but concurrent with the order in which Life would be handing out favors?
Not that I considered myself a weak or easily frightened person; in more casual games I excelled, especially at wrestling (I could beat every boy but one ...
If you liked Autobiography of a Face, try these:
'A brilliant book -- at once a powerful and moving biography of a great mathematical genius and an important contribution to American intellectual history.'
A memoir of culture and history of fathers and daughters, of two world wars and the passionate rebellions of the sixties. It is also about the mythology of place and the evolution of a sensibility: and about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life.
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The Steady Running of the Hour
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