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Passing for Normal: A Memoir of Compulsion Paperback – July 5, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (July 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076790186X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767901864
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Growing up is difficult enough without the added stress of an unattractive and little-understood neurological condition that causes one to twitch, pick at one's skin, hoard rotten food or step six times on each stair and manhole cover one passes. No wonder Wilensky, who didn't realize she had Tourette's syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder until she was in college, tried so hard to pass for normal. A graduate of Columbia's M.F.A. writing program, she insightfully and intimately describes the symptoms that emerged during her early school years and soon dominated her life. These tics infuriated her father, who accused her of looking "crazy" and insisted she stop. Increasingly confused, fearing for her sanity and sometimes bullied by her classmates, Wilensky managed to negotiate her way through adolescence. But when, as a Vassar student, she was plagued by insistent compulsions to harm herself, she finally sought psychiatric help. Her diagnosis was both a relief and a challenge, for it forced her to confront her own ambivalence about otherness. "If the tics and rituals were as much a part of me as the mole on the back of my neck," she muses as she considers taking medication, "then eliminating them with a pop of a pill was an eradication of my very soul." Wilensky's emotional honesty and surprising humor make this memoir not only an informative account of diagnosis and treatment, but an exceptionally wise exploration of larger themes of difference and the need to belong. Agent, Amanda Urban, ICM. Author tour. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This book concerns a frequently misunderstood psychological illness, Tourette's syndrome, which currently afflicts over 200,000 Americans. Contrary to popular belief, not all sufferers exhibit coprolalia (the involuntary utterance of offensive language); common symptoms consist of bizarre vocal and physical tics. Wilensky, a New York writer, has both Tourette's syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She describes, in intimate detail, how her life has been circumscribed by her debilitating condition. Transforming the reader into a confidante, she opens the reader's mind and heart to the plight of all Tourettic victims. Her tale is a testament to human courage, hope, and perseverance as well as a heartfelt search for personal identity that redefines the concept of "normalcy." Recommended for all public and academic libraries.AYan Toma & Jessica Wolff, Queens Borough P.L., Flushing, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Amy Wilensky has written a candid, funny and touching memoir.
CLB
Reading the two books, it almost seems like the Amy in the book about Alison's weight is an entirely different person than the Amy in the book about Amy.
E. S. Charpentier
I do not have Tourette's or OCD nor am I related to anyone who does, but I was so deeply moved by Amy Wilensky's book that I read it in one sitting.
Betsy Pascucci

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Betsy Pascucci on November 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
One Sunday afternoon several years ago I was in a busy drugstore at Christmas time looking for the perfect kitty ornament for my niece. Kneeling down searching thru a huge box, I was startled when suddenly a man behind me began to quack. Loudly. In my ear. When I turned to face him, I found an ordinary looking middle aged man who looked miserable about the noise he was making. At the time I was wearing a sweatshirt onto which I had cross stitched a yellow duck with a sprig of holly in its beak. Figuring somehow he was reacting to my shirt, I walked away from the box and started for another part of the store. The quacking stopped. Later, standing on a long check out line, I watched the woman in front of me pull the string on a Christmas toy. Out came the words, "Bah! Humbug!" Not a second later came cries of "Bah! Humbug!" from the quacking man who was now several people behind me on line. It wasn't until I was driving home that I realized what was wrong with the quacking man. He had Tourette's Syndrome. I do not have Tourette's or OCD nor am I related to anyone who does, but I was so deeply moved by Amy Wilensky's book that I read it in one sitting. What an amazing account of what had to have been such a difficult life. Only a woman as brave as Amy could have gotten thru high school and college as pre-occupied and troubled as she was. I thought I was handicapped in school because I had a face full of freckles and an unrestrained overbite. Amy had actual demons she had to obey in order to be able to get out of bed every morning. But she did it. How brave is that? You don't have to suffer from a psychological or neurological disorder to appreaciate this book. You just have to be human.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a middle school teacher I've realized through reading this book how important it is to recognize and help the so many young people out there with Tourette's Syndrome and OCD. And learning that these disorders often go undiagnosed for so long has made me start encouraging all my colleagues to go out and get this book, as well. "Passing for Normal" is an essential and moving book, and it has helped me become a better teacher.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put this book down. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting! Having someone close to me who has OCD made it all the more compelling. I recognized many of the symptoms of OCD, but the Tourette's was all new to me. I admired Amy's honesty through her writng, and really felt for her. I think this book will open a lot of "normal" people's eyes, and will certainly help fellow sufferers of OCD and Tourette's.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By CLB on January 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Amy Wilensky has written a candid, funny and touching memoir. As a fellow OCD sufferer, I totally understand that bizarre feeling of noticing that a new "ritual" has arisen, seemingly out of nowhere and getting inadvertently "caught" by other people while you're doing something that seems odd to the outside world. Reading this book might make you think twice before you judge someone who does strange things. Unlike most of the self-pitying memoirs which abound on today's bookshelves, "Passing for Normal" honestly describes the struggles of living with OCD and Tourette's in a world not very willing to accept differences.
This book has a fascinating footnote which I've never seen before in books on Tourette's/OCD. Apparently, children who develop Tourette's (which is often accompanied by OCD) have had a higher-than-normal incidence of strep throat and penicillin allergy. Since this is true for me---I can't wait to hear about more medical research on this particular issue!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Stone on August 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Amy Wilensky tells a powerful first-hand account of living with Tourette syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Amy Wilensky, at the age of 8 years old, began to have symptoms, first there was a tick; her head and neck would jerk. At first it was every once in a while, so Amy could conceal it sometimes. Then it started getting more intense, causing Amy pain in the form of headaches and a permanently stiff neck, and it became increasingly difficult to hide from anyone. When her father noticed the tics, he was angry. The worst was at mealtime. He would watch her like a sniper and would explode when there was even the slightest movement of her head or neck. He would say "you're head's going to fall off if you don't cut that out!" Things got worse for Amy. Her mind lurched and veered in ways she didn't understand; Amy felt that she must touch wood at all times to ward off harm, and that chewing a wad of stale gum would prevent a plane crash. She would save meaningless scraps of paper, and there were many other occurrences that made Amy feel that she was crazy.
I believe that anyone can understand Amy's feelings at having a disease that was undiagnosed for years and what it makes you think of yourself and how it effects your whole life. I was so inspired by the amazing account of Amy's difficult life, and how she was able to make it to where she is today.
A very courageous story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read about this book in a number of magazines and finally went out and bought it. I was amazed by how well it was written -- honest, open, funny and smart -- and by what a great perspective the writer had, not only on her own experiences with Tourette syndrome and OCD but on life in general. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who likes quality nonfiction about fascinating subject matter -- and I really look forward to this writer's next output. This is a keeper, and a book to share with all of your discriminating reader friends and family.
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