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The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory Paperback – May 1, 2007
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A beautiful account blending memory, information and insight so eloquently and uniquely. Reading this book is a rewarding absorbing experience. -- Joanna Scott, author, Various Antidotes
A beautiful and truly original book, for the quality of mind and language I found in it. Fries's reflections on adaptation led me to think in a new way about my own life of adaptations. -- Adrienne Rich
An amazing book--beautiful and unique. Kenny Fries makes dazzling connections between the most intimate details and the most sweeping panoramas, and left me changed by his insights. -- Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven
Beautifully written, fascinating, incredibly original and with a great title. It says something about the human race that is truly profound. I don't know when I have read anything more pertinent or exciting. -- Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Lives of Dogs
Fascinating...With incisive passion, Fries argues that the ideas of Darwin and Wallace yield insights into how disability fits into culture....People adapt in order to survive just as species do. The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory will take you on a remarkable journey of memoir, disability, and culture -- The Washington Blade, June 8, 2007
I read this book with great pleasure, delighted by the unexpected yet perfectly apt conjunctions, by the grace and economy with which the episodes from Darwin's life and key concepts of his work are transposed into a "natural history" of the self with a poet's sense of the telling detail -- Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Servants of the Map
In this quietly revolutionary book, Fries gives us his own story, side-by-side with that of Darwin's. The juxtaposition is startling, revelatory, and ultimately redemptive. Big-hearted, generous, deeply human, this is the next wave in identity politics, and you're going to love it. -- Alison Smith, author, Name All The Animals
Kenny Fries explores both "able-bodiedness" and the legacies of Darwin's theory while literally traveling the world. There is no book quite like this and no one who reads these pages will ever forget them. This is a history of our bodies and a travelogue through landscapes and cultural signs that everyone should read in our post-colonial millennium. --Stephen Kuusisto, author, Planet of the Blind
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Top Customer Reviews
You'd also be walking in shoes specially-molded for your feet, the sole of one built up three inches higher than the other to compensate for the uneven length of your legs.
To walk a mile in the shoes of Kenny Fries, you first have to understand the history of those shoes.
Fries' new memoir explores that history but does so in a rich, relevant, and thought-provoking way. "The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory" intertwines the story of Fries' disability with the stories of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace--the fathers of the theory of evolution--and their quest to understand the role of adaptation in the natural world.
Fries was born missing most of the bones in his legs. He has no ankles. He's missing toes. His right foot juts out from his leg at almost a ninety-degree angle. "There was no scientific explanation for this situation; no medical name for the condition," he writes.
Yet, through surgeries, with the encouragement of his parents and doctors, and with custom-made shoes, Fries learned to walk.
Just as his shoes literally help him get around in life, they also help him cover a lot of territory in his book. They serve as a powerful symbol of not only his disability but also his adaptability, the concept that sits at the crux of the book.
That's why Darwin and Wallace become so important to the larger narrative. Fries writes about their lives, their research, and their legacies with clarity and obvious respect.Read more ›
By juxtaposing the stories of Darwin and Wallace and their development of a theory of evolution with his own story and the history of his orthopedic shoes, Fries gives us two different narrative threads and makes us move back and forth between them. I have to admit that at first I found this technique a little bit awkward, but as I read, I realized that the tensions in this book are what fuel it, what give it its strength and magic. I felt my thought processes adapting as I gained a greater understaing about why these two stories are really the same story. And a month after first reading the book, I think that Fries' words are still moving around in my head, working on me slowly.
Not only does Kenny Fries manage to frame a crucial discussion in a new light, he accomplishes the most difficult and greatest thing a writer can do: he creates a structure that allows his reader to move from simply reading his words to actually experiencing what they mean. We find that Fries, in pushing us to find new ways of connecting and experiencing narrative, has begun to implant in us his own philosophy of connecting with and experiencing the world.
development of Darwin's theory and Fries' journey to live a full life
on his own terms. The contrast between these two stories offers
surprising insights into the very human process behind the development
of the theory of evolution and the author's own life. Fries writes
with clarity and grace. Highly recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A magnificent and unique read that will change one's view of disability and notions of "survival of the fittest."Published 2 months ago by Peter
This is an OK book, but I could not get excited about it. Hope to be discussing it with a book group.Published on October 14, 2008 by Old Gardener
I have to admit to feeling not a little ashamed of myself while reading these life-affirming vignettes. Read morePublished on April 12, 2008 by I. Sondel
Kenny Fries' book is one of the best books I've read this year. It is fascinating, moving, funny. I immediately went back and re-read some chapters, which is something I never... Read morePublished on June 4, 2007 by Alice Ramirez