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 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."
let me go find one...................
About the way kids at school have to pick teams. (and they still do this nowadays and I remember how horrible that was. I was never picked last but always nearly last and that hurt. I hated sports
"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?"
She wrote this book in such an honest way, sometimes really tough to read. weirdly enough i did recognise a lot, especially the part about having pain and such and feeling so insecure.
Now I want to read Ann Pratchet's book: Truth and Beauty. I might treat myself.
I do not know how she died but I am sure I will find out.
Her story is written clearly and concisely. She is unerringly honest about how her disease affected her family, her developing personality, and those around her. As we follow her through years of skin and bone grafts, we witness her need or acceptance from others and her gradual acceptance of herself.
I was particularly struck by Grealy's need to be 'strong.' She is constantly reminded not to cry and to never show fear. This begins Grealy's quest to be the model patient. I am amazed that this small child was able to internalize and minimize her emotions, suffering, and considerable pain. To me, she seemed like an adult soul in a child's body.
I recommend Autobiography of a Face -- it is a moving and meaningful read.
One more point before I go. [[Patchett]] also wrote a book, entitled [Truth and Beauty] in which she shares Lucy’s life from her point of view as a friend in college and graduate school. Several people have said that they found it strange that Patchett is not mentioned in Grealy’s book. Not so much. Autobiography of a Face is centered far more on Lucy’s childhood and her family and Patchett entered the picture much later. I will say that I far prefer the character of Grealy in her own book, rather than the needy, sex-driven girl portrayed in Patchett’s book. An interesting contrast none-the-less.
Lucy contracted cancer of the jaw at 9 years old, to remove the cancer doctors took one-half of her jaw. She experienced treatments for 2 1/2 years, the pain she felt is very vividly expressed. Lucy shares with us her loneliness and pain at times so real I found myself crying
In terms of its writing quality, I felt there were too many realizations that were incongruent with a child's understanding -- too many ah-ha moments that a child would never have, no matter the circumstances. Perhaps I'm being too hard, that it is difficult to write a memoir without infusing one's adults thoughts into the details. She does a great job with showing our cultural emphasis on beauty, and how despite the fact that she survived this cancer (and others were less fortunate and less obviously whole), she would never find her own beauty, nor believe that others could see it in her.
I would recommend this book to people who read Ann Patchett's book, as well as to those who need or want to better understand childhood cancer more.
Maybe it's not fair, but the impact of this memoir was lessened somewhat for me because Grealy committed suicide in 2002. The book ends on a hopeful note, but I ended up feeling depressed because I felt like Grealy ultimately gave up... I may read Anne Padgett's Truth and Beauty, which is about her friendship with Lucy Grealy. Maybe it would help me understand her better.
This book is easy to read, so straightforward. It's kind of disturbing sometimes how descriptive she is about her
She gives a vivid description of everything and it seems like you're also experiencing her experiences as you're reading this book. In my opinion, she didn't write this book so that people would pity her for having such an unfortunate life. I think, she wrote this so that we would be grateful of what we have and not complain for what we don't have. This book is really an eye-opener.
Lucy's story is both inspirational and real. I admire how she admits inconsistencies in her memory, her innermost thoughts, and her insecurities. I liked that she didn't sugarcoat things. She talked about the things she thought as a child, whether they made sense or not, like did her wanting to feel special make her sick or was she too ugly to be loved? She illustrates how painful and time consuming the treatment for cancer is. The side effects for chemotherapy that she had were vomiting, weight loss, radiation burns, loss of appetite, pain, hair loss, and damaged teeth. This doesn't even include the initial removal of part of her jaw (and her disfigured face). To go through this as an adult is unimaginable to me, let alone as a child.
Throughout her life, Lucy experiences many of the same things that most people do, like her awkward relationship with her parents, the painful teasing and tormenting from schoolyard bullies, envy of normal children, fear of death, and her insecurities about her looks. The media's perception of the nature of beauty is so different from real people, that I can understand why the body image issues that typically plague young girls would be so much worse for Lucy. Growing up is hard enough to do without the extra complications she had to go through.
Just a side note: I first heard of this book because Chuck Palahniuk named it as an inspiration behind Invisible Monsters. These two books are very different from each other, but are excellent in their own right.
Her experiences with a disfigured face and the agonies and hardships caused by her cancer are the primary topics of this book. Her cancer treatment, which begins at age 9, is harrowing and heart-breaking. As a result of the treatments, a third of her jaw is removed--giving her a face that results in teasing, alienation and feelings of being unlovable. Two things struck me most about the book. One was how much she must have left out. She literally spent years having new procedures done to reconstruct her jaw and spent endless amounts of time in hospitals. Although you get a glimpse of what some of those operations and hospital stays were like, I can't even imagine what it must have been like to have been that sick for so long.
The second thing is how little information she seemed to have received about her various treatment and the lack of communication amongst her family. She writes several times about her mother's wish for her not to cry during chemotherapy and subsequent treatments: "If you pretend to be brave then you will be brave." What a burden to put on a child! She also writes about her father going into the hospital for stomach pains, but then he doesn't come home for months and virtually no one in the family goes to visit him except Lucy's mother. He ends up dying there--never returning home. Lucy goes to visit one time and then is ambushed by grief years later. One of the recurring themes of the book is how little her family talked about what was happening in their lives and how they felt--leading to so much unnecessary pain and misunderstandings. This is something I think so many of us can relate to--the things we leave unsaid to those we love the most.
Lucy's central struggle is to come to terms with her face and her concept of beauty and the question of whether someone with this kind of face can be loved. I think it is a struggle that we can all share--especially women. Physical beauty is so often correlated to being desirable and "lovable." But how many of us feel truly beautiful? How often have you felt undesirable because of how you looked? I know this is something I always struggle with (although it has gotten better in recent years). I think that once someone truly knows you as a person, they see the beauty within you and you do become beautiful and feel beautiful with them. But what about people you don't know? When all they are judging you on is how you look on the outside? I often feel so confident and good about myself and then will catch a glimpse of myself in a store window and go "Oh yuck. You look so ugly and dumpy and overweight." And all my good feelings about myself go down the drain.
Another thing that struck me as being universal about the book was Lucy's constant belief that with the next operation, her face would be "normal" again and then everything will be better. How often do we do this in life? "Once I make more money, things will be better." "Once I find someone to love me, things will be better." "Once I lose the weight, things will be better." We spend so much time thinking about how much better things will be if only this were true or that were true. And how often do we achieve something and find that things are still not better? At the end of the book--after a particularly long and extensive series of surgeries--Lucy realizes that her face is a normal as it is ever going to get. There will be no more surgeries, no more fixes. The man she is sitting with is only giving her positive reactions. She writes: "And then I experienced a moment of the freedom I'd been practicing for behind my Halloween mask all those years ago. As a child, I had expected my liberation to come from getting a new face to put on, but now I saw it came from shedding something, shedding my image. I used to think truth was eternal, that once I knew, once I saw, it would be with me forever, a constant by which everything else could be measured. I know now that this isn't so, that most truths are inherently unretainable, that we have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things."
This is a not a fun, happy and breezy book, but it is thought-provoking and interesting. I would definitely recommend reading this book together with Ann Patchett's book as they complement each other very well. I wish I had read them closer together.
However, I was disappointed at the end. I had hoped that she would have come to some conclusion, or at least, less ambivalence about her situation, but that did not happen. I didn't expect her to start skipping around but I thought she might find a sliver of nirvana or peace. Although the final words hint at that, they never go so far and it felt more like a "required wrap up" for the book to end in so many words than a real conclusion.
Autobiography of a Face is Grealy's memoir in essays about her difficult coming of age in the 1970s and 1980s. She does come across as self-absorbed, but her insights into truth and beauty (to borrow the title of one of the book's strongest chapters, as well as the title of the book her friend Ann Patchett wrote about Grealy) make this book still well worth reading some seventeen years after her death.