MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from All In My Head by Paula Kamen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

All In My Head

An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache

by Paula Kamen

All In My Head by Paula Kamen X
All In My Head by Paula Kamen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2005, 351 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 320 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

PREFACE
A Burning Bush in Gary, Indiana (1979)

I could interpret the strange fact that the title of my sixth-grade science project was "The Control of Chronic Pain," and that I later developed years of constant pain (felt primarily as a dagger of criminal nerves behind the left eye), in one of two ways:

1. It's just a coincidence. No connection. There is no real system of meaning in the universe. After all, I'm hardly unique. More than a quarter of all Americans experience some form of chronic pain each year, and about 20 percent of women have migraines or some type of persistent headache, a term I have used as shorthand to name my particular mystery affliction. For God's sake, the headache is the most common medical condition plaguing human beings! And there you have it.

OR

2. You see, the New Agers, much of the alternative medicine and self-help industry, and all those psychoanalysts are right. All pain has some meaning. Everything in life happens for a reason, so we can grow. There are no accidents. The sixth-grade science project was a clear sign from God or Spirit or the Higher Power of Your Understanding that all along I was meant to experience these headaches, learn from them, and then teach others to relieve their suffering.

More specifically, as I interpret this second popular philosophy, we are each basically nothing more than ageless, continually reincarnating souls on an eternal mission for enlightenment, seeking to learn the vital and often painful lessons that our previous selves neglected. Just before we are born, our invisible spirits, just released from dead people, hover in the twilight-somewhere between the clouds and heaven-waiting for the next baby, which will represent their next and most effective learning opportunity. Then, at the proper moment, like synchronized swimmers lined up on a long series of diving boards by the pool's edge in a 1930s Busby Berkeley musical, they each seamlessly dive sideways and gracefully in cascading sequence into their individually designated earthly human containers.

So, from this perspective, what evidently happened to me was that on the day I was born, April 9, 1967, my particular soul looked down and had the foresight, as souls often do, to choose my unassuming bourgeois South Suburban Chicago human life-form. It knew that, through a series of hapless errors in judgment and general misfortune, this bipedal hominid would offer the soul the perfect opportunity to fulfill its particular mission: having a really, really bad headache.

In its infinite wisdom, the soul recognized that I would grow up with an anesthesiologist uncle who started one of the earlier chronic pain clinics in America, in Gary, Indiana--a land mass which is comparable in its cosmic power significance only to the sacred continental energy-vortex center underlying the Great Pyramid of Giza, or to that freaky thing in Sedona that attracts all those tourists. At the age of twelve, a traditional age of initiation into the world, my uncle would suggest as a topic for my sixth-grade science project "chronic pain," offering valuable foreshadowing. That science project would serve as my own personal burning bush, as a platform on which the Divine could manifest itself on earth and alert me to my purpose.

The soul knew that despite the initially apparent dry nature of this topic of chronic pain, its mysteries would soon powerfully capture my imagination. After all, it posed so many more haunting and mesmerizing questions than the garden variety projects of my classmates, what with their pedestrian baking-soda volcanoes and hamster-perplexing mazes.

I was drawn to the topic of pain the same way I was to the riveting made-for-TV John Travolta movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble of that era, about the freakishness that results when the body goes awry. It had the same pull as the horrible, terrorizing historical accounts of Jewish girls my age hiding from the Nazis, such as in the Scholastic book Marta and the Nazis, which was most likely ordered from the back of a Weekly Reader, about a German girl stashing the family diamonds in the head of a doll she carried away in the train going over the border. And then there was the story of the more famous real-life Dutch girl hiding in an attic covered in movie posters, in a story still too dark for me to fully comprehend. Probably Catholic kids feel the same weird connection to tales of martyred saints riddled with arrows, sleeping on piles of bricks, wearing gloves filled with nettles, and/or willingly starving themselves to death. They just eat that stuff up.

From the preface to All In My Head, pages ix - xvi. Copyright Paula Kamen 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Da Capo Press.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: When We Were Vikings
    When We Were Vikings
    by Andrew David MacDonald
    In When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald, readers are first introduced to Zelda on her ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Build a Heart
    How to Build a Heart
    by Maria Padian
    Maria Padian is well-known for her motif of exploring teen reactions to social issues. Her novel ...
  • Book Jacket: Follow Me to Ground
    Follow Me to Ground
    by Sue Rainsford
    Ada and her father are human-like beings who age slowly and possess the power to heal all illness. ...
  • Book Jacket: Children of the Land
    Children of the Land
    by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
    In this exquisitely crafted memoir, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo describes coming of age as a young ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Red Letter Days
    by Sarah-Jane Stratford

    A striking novel about two daring women who escape McCarthy-era Hollywood for London.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl in White Gloves
    by Kerri Maher

    A fascinating and deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Remembrance
by Rita Woods

A breakout debut with modern resonance, perfect for fans of The Underground Railroad and Orphan Train.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Lost Family

The Lost Family
by Libby Copeland

A deeply reported look at the rise of home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on individual lives.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A F I Need I A F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.