"Lucy Grealy's ruthless self-examination, rich fantasy life, and great derring-do inform this powerful memoir about the premium we put on beauty and on a woman's face in particular. It took Lucy twenty years of living with a distorted self-image and more than thirty reconstructive procedures before she could come to terms with her appearance after childhood surgery left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special. Later she internalized the paralyzing fear of never being loved. Heroically and poignantly, she learned to define herself from the inside out." "This memoir arrives at a time when the worship of beauty in our culture is at an all-time high, a time when more and more women seek physical perfection. Lucy Grealy awakens in us the difficult truth that beauty, finally, is to be found deep within."--BOOK JACKET.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 goes on to attend the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the publication of this book brings her national writing acclaim. But it never solves the problem of the intense aloneness she feels in the world, wondering if anyone will ever truly love her, a hunger she can't manage to feed.
Honest and horrifying in parts. A brilliant memoir.
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
Grealy's style is frank and open, and the reader must admire her relative fearlessness. As an adult writing about her unusual childhood, she honestly assesses her actions and motivations and gives us a picture of a bright, resilient girl. The bulk of the book is spent on her childhood, and the last few chapters rush through her young adulthood and the continuing surgeries, one of which finally restores a portion of her jaw.
Though most of us never have to face disfigurement such as Lucy Grealy did, as a reader I could still identify with her childish belief in "if only." If only her face were not disfigured, everything would be perfect in her life. If only she had a beautiful face she would find love. If only her family were not so "different," life would be ideal. I believe most humans have some glimmer of this belief: if only I were more attractive, more intelligent, thinner, wealthier, THEN everything would be perfect. I found the end of this book to be a bit of a letdown, mostly because I had bought into Grealy's assumption that everything would be fine once her jaw was repaired. Of course it did not live up to her expectations and of course she now has to learn, as all of us do, to live with the cards she's been dealt.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) her hardships, Grealy has been academically and intellectually successful. She is an accomplished poet and teacher, she has had vibrant friendships, she has been able to travel and live in various places, and she seems to have a full life. I did feel that the story ended a bit abruptly. After laying her childhood bare, Grealy seems to have held back with regard to her adulthood. Perhaps her recent experiences are too recent for her to view clearly and comment on.
The bullying and teasing Grealy suffered did not play as large a role in the story as I had expected, although it was clear that the taunts deeply affected the author and her sense of self worth. I was appalled at the behavior she described. I know children can be mean and see depictions of teasing and bullying all the time, but I did not experience this sort of behavior (or I was blissfully unaware of it) and I did not inflict it. I cannot understand people who have no empathy, especially for someone whose appearance and situation are so obviously out of her control.
Overall, I found this to be a thoroughly engrossing and ultimately uplifting memoir. Highly recommended!
I did mark a few passages that stood out to me:
One had to be good. One must never complain or struggle. One must never, under any circumstances, show fear and, prime directive above all, one must never, ever cry. I was nothing if not hars. Had I not found myself in the role of sick child, I would have made an equally good fascist or religious martyr.
Gradually my earliest memories of Ireland transformed into pure myth. Where I was now was not only no good, it was getting worse all the time. The flawless times of the family were past; I had missed them simply by being born too late. I began a lifelong affair with nostalgia, with only the vaguest notions of what I was nostalgic for.
I resolved to Believe, even in the face of this lack of response. Was it possible to prove my worthiness by repeatedly asking the question, even in th the brunt of this painful silence? In the same way I was sure I could prove my love, and lovability, to my mother by showing her I could "take it," I considered the idea that what God wanted from me was to keep trying and trying and trying, no matter how difficult it was. My goal, and my intended reward, was to understand.
In my carefully orchestrated shabbiness, I was hoping to beat the world to the finish line by showing that I already knew I was ugly. Still, all the while, I was secretly hoping that in the process some potential lover might accidentally notice I was wearing my private but beautiful heart on my stained and fraying sleeve.