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How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man's Quest for Independence (Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography) Hardcover – March 20, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0299184308 ISBN-10: 0299184307 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (March 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0299184307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0299184308
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,718,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“O’Brien conveys his pain, his suffering, his depression, his anomie—without resorting to tugging at our heartstrings.”—Felice Picano, author of Like People in History


“It’s a common accusation: People with disabilities live such sheltered, uneventful lives that they have no stories to tell. Mark O’Brien shoots that belief down with How I Became a Human Being.”—Echo Magazine

From the Back Cover

"Writing this kind of memoir requires-in addition to the sheer stamina and grit it must have cost Mark O'Brien with his great physical debility-a truly tempered personality and, dare I say it, greatness of character. . . . O'Brien conveys his pain, his suffering, his depression, his anomie-without resorting to tugging at our heartstrings."-Felice Picano, author of Like People in History and The Lure and Onyx

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
This book was very interesting.
Tiarra Baskerville
What a lifeforce this man has. such courage and determination.
Kindle Customer
A documentary made about him wins an esteemed movie award.
pedal roy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lucille on April 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
September 1955. Six-year-old Mark O'Brien moved his arms and legs for the last time. He came out of a thirty-day coma to find himself enclosed from the neck down in an iron lung, the machine in which he would live for much of the rest of his life.
How I Became a Human Being is Mark O'Brien's account of his struggles to lead an independent life despite a lifelong disability. In 1955, he contracted polio and became permanently paralyzed from the neck down. O'Brien describes growing up without the use of his limbs, his adolescence struggling with physical rehabilitation and suffering the bureaucracy of hospitals and institutions, and his adult life as an independent student and writer. Despite his weak physical state, O'Brien attended graduate school, explored his sexuality, fell in love, published poetry, and worked as a journalist. A determined writer, O'Brien used a mouthstick to type each word.
O'Brien's story does not beg for sympathy. It is rather a day-to-day account of his reality?the life he crafted and maintained with a good mind, hired attendants, decent legislation for disabled people in California, and support from the University of California at Berkeley. He describes the ways in which a paralyzed person takes care of the body, mind, and heart. What mattered most was his writing, the people he loved, his belief in God, and his belief in himself.
Mark O'Brien was the subject of the 1997 Academy Award?winning documentary Breathing Lessons. He was a published poet and cofounder of the Lemonade Factory, a California press that published poetry by people with disabilities. O'Brien died in 1999 at the age of forty-nine after completing a draft of How I Became a Human Being . Gillian Kendall is a writer. She has contributed to both Outright Radio and Sun magazine; one of her short stories appeared in The Student Body, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J.E. on December 9, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While a recent film (The Sessions) and documentary (Breathing Lessons) have been made, this autobiographical story, authored by Mark O'Brien, is the one that grabs you and doesn't let go. Despite his severe handicaps, Mr. O'Brien goes to college (UC Berkeley!) and becomes a journalist, writer and poet. The book goes into detail about his experiences growing up, his transition to a nursing home (a nightmare), college, and beyond. We all cope with challenges in our lives. But the challenges this man copes with and overcomes, leave you reeling and evaluating life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lori Lipkes on November 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book. I saw the movie The Sessions, which only covers a short period of Mark's life. This book gives you details of his youth and his college experience at UC Berkeley.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mickey Jackson on January 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After seeing the movie, "The Sessions," I was interested in learning more about Mark O'Brien. I was extemely moved by the book and have shared it with several friends.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dave M on March 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
well written, and enjoyable reading. Shows the human emotions and feelongs of a man trapped in his own body seeking love sex and "humanness,"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Worstell on January 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having watched this most amazing self-filmed movie, it amazes me that the movie doesn't deal with the incredible successes during his life rather than sex. Wow, this is a marvelous autobiography!
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By DeAnza on May 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"How I became a human being" is a great read. It is one of those books that I had trouble putting down, once I had begun reading it. Mark O'Brien is a truely inspirational person, who proves that if you set your mind to something, you can achieve whatever you want to in life despite, in his case, extraordinary obstacles. I simply can't imagine being paralysed from the neck down. What amazed me while reading the book, was that at times, I forgot that Mark had such a profound disabilty, with his humour, personality and love coming through in his writing.
My only criticism of this book is that there was no mention at any point of Mark's realization that he would never walk again, that he would forever be reliant on others and indeed be reliant on an iron lung. When was he first told he would never walk again? How did he and his parents react to this news? Did he live in hope that by some miracle, he would walk again or did he accept that this was the way he was going to be for the rest of his life? After finishing the book, I felt that these questions were left largely unanswered.
Also, as Mark O'Brien died in 1999, I felt that it would have been good for the co-writer to have written an epilogue regarding the circumstances of his death. Throughout the book Mark comes close to death on several occasions and he talks about death in quite some detail, but the reader is left with no details of the actual circumstances in which he died.
Despite these criticisms, I recommend this book highly. It is an amazingly inspirational read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mary L. Bittner on April 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this after watching "The Sessions" and his life inspired me even more. To have endured such pain and limited use of his body and yet want to partake of as much of life as he could in spite of his many obstacles is truly inspiring. We should all have such a perspective on life as he did. It would ,perhaps, stop us from trying to escape life through our addictions, despair and suicides. He truly gave me an added appreciation for life and my blessings and to never take anything for granted. Thank you, Mark.
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