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How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man's Quest for Independence (Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography) 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is amazing. The author has an outstanding ability to share ( in a non-judgmental and forgiving way) about his life and the others around him as they dealt with the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by John C.
He had the help of a professional writer but it contains all O'Brien's story including his thoughts and feelings about being in an iron lung and going to school. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Mary Beth Smith
Beautiful piece of nonfiction work filled with struggle , hope and resiliency. It is inspirational for others reaching out for self-actualization!Published on January 23, 2014 by Lori A. Manilla
A great gutsy book, laughed and cried most of the through it, his courage and spirit is a lesson to all! This book should be on the school curriculum! Read morePublished on November 13, 2013 by Fran Wainwright
Very fast and excellent service. I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend this seller to anyone. Thanks a bunch.Published on September 5, 2013 by Althea Goff
Beautiful, masterfully written book about the human spirit. Mark O'Brien's poetry is highlighted throughout. Read morePublished on July 5, 2013 by Melly M
The book the excellent movie `The Sessions' is loosely based on. It is an account of an American boy, aged six, stricken by polio and rendered so disabled he has to spend much of... Read morePublished on June 16, 2013 by pedal roy
I recently saw the movie THE SESSIONS and was eager to learn more about Mark O'Brien and his quest to experience life to its fullest. Read morePublished on May 30, 2013 by Jack E. Levic
What a lifeforce this man has. such courage and determination. Absolutely loved this book and would recommend it to everyone.Published on May 5, 2013 by Kindle Customer