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Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life Paperback – February 21, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“There is a small but discrete literature by writers who have experienced personal or family tragedy: William Styron on his depression, Reynolds Price on his paraplegia, Kenzaburo Oe on his brain-damaged son. . . . To read these stories can deepen everyone's humanity. Too Late to Die Young can proudly take its place among these other important books.” ―The Washington Post
“A remarkable portrait of a woman who is proof that the disabled can live lives filled with purpose and pleasure.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Masterfully pace and structured . . . Too Late To Die Young serves as both a memoir and a kind of revolutionary act itself.” ―Mary Johnson, Ragged Edge Online
“Readers inclined to feel sorry for people with disabilities . . . [should] read Johnson's feisty book instead.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Johnson's rich, descriptive writing, humor, and Southern cadence make the book entertaining, thought-provoking, and meaningful.” ―The Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina)
“She insists on being her own complicated person, a Southern lady, for instance, as well as a socialist, an atheist, a lawyer, and a born storyteller with a wicked sense of humor. . . . But her writing is so vibrant, so interesting, and so funny that you can't help but feel as if you're in her world, sitting beside her and hearing her story for yourself.” ―The Tampa Tribune
“This lady pulls no punches. An entertaining look at an activist who insists on living life her way, disability or no; strongly recommended.” ―Library Journal
“A wonderful mix: a keen mind, exuberance, activist politics, along with a special brand of Southern women's wit.” ―Adrienne Rich
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Top Customer Reviews
But what makes Johnson's tale stand out is her personal analysis of mainstream culture's preordained attitudes on disability. Whether she is trashing the "telethon-pity-do-gooder' ethos or demonstrating the limits of freedom for a person with a disability in a for-profit economy, Johnson rejects most commonly held views and specifically the "snivelling for nickels" school of so called advocacy that forces people to become more and more dependent on the whims of public policy decisions.
There is nothing tragic here. In fact, Johnson is very, very funny. Disability has been around a long time but rarely has it been portrayed with such honesty, humor and analysis. Do yourself a favor ... read this book!!
This easy to read book (a mere 258 pages) includes the bulk of the text of Unspeakable Conversations, a 2003 New York Times Magazine article she wrote that described her conversations with Princeton Professor Peter Singer about his beliefs that the severely disabled, in some circumstances, can justifiably be killed. Interestingly, she is conflicted about the accommodating and courteous man versus his "evil" ideas. She acknowledges that she stands outside the radical mainstream simply for having engaged Mr. Singer in a conversation.Read more ›
In so doing, she frees herself (and us) from the depressing statistics about bigotry/discrimination/incarceration/murder and instead makes the importance of this human rights struggle's triumph seem to have a chance of success.
It's a completely different approach than Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" but with any luck could have a similar effect on society.
By telling stories that have been honed through repeated smaller-audience repetitions, she gets the essentially exultant message of our shared humanity across in great style.
If you wondered "why the caged bird sings" (thank you, Maya!), this collection provides lots of answers. From the heights of chutzpah of invoking (with absolutely no basis) a set of bodyguards from the Fruit of Islam through the prima donna encounter with the Times' photographer (and the tasty accreditation of her in the acknowledgements), she lays bare why we hope her rationality/humanity might even sway Prof. Singer from unfortunate sociopath to advocate.
Her views on disability as a civil rights issue aren't presented in a didactic way; they become clear to the reader as she confronts her opponents. I liked being privy to the details of her experience, even though she presents herself as nearly always right. While I read I was thinking that she came off as SO sure of herself that I would find her overbearing and a little obnoxious in person. However, she acknowledges the thorniness, and clearly isn't out to be the reader's best friend.
Other than that note, I felt myself in good hands. I have a better understanding of what it's like to need and live with a personal assistant. I was familiar with the basics of disability rights, but the book got into nuances I hadn't considered-- the pressures and trade-offs in Cuba, where genuine intentions for equality butt up against severe economic limits, for example. And it reinforced ideas that non-disabled people glide over: most of us will be disabled sometime. Disabled people aren't necessarily more "terminal" or "suffering" than the rest of us, because frankly everyone suffers and dies. And if that sounds depressing, don't worry: some of the stories in this book were so funny I had to read bits out loud to my spouse.
This is a four- instead of a five-star review because I didn't feel I quite got a fair view of the author's opponents; it was just a little too one-sided, although that enhanced some of the humor. But the book was still well-written and fascinating. Definitely worth reading.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book taught me a lot of useful information that I did not know about those who have disabilities. I must say, I have a newfound respect for individuals with disabilities. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jay Paul
And above all moving, moving in the sense that it makes you want to move mountains ,create and contribute to movements, make voices of all sorts expand our moral imagination and... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Eva F. Kittay
For many years, I always found a way to work ms. Johnson's NYTimes article into my college classroom. And then there was the year I didn't - and ended up in a power chair myself. Read morePublished 14 months ago by maryann p. hobbie
I love the sarcasm of the author within this book. Truly the best story to share with people who need a bit of insight.Published 20 months ago by Cyanow90
pretty interesting book. needed it for school and it was actually an interesting read. Highly recommend it. Not a boring life story but actually very intriguing.Published 23 months ago by Chris B.
I came across this book of autobiographical essays when I was trying to learn more about the experience of living with cerebral palsy. Read morePublished on November 6, 2013 by Alan Venable
I picked up this book on recommendation thinking it would be "important" to read. The title sounded a little too serious for me and yet seemed... Read more
Harriet McBryde Johnson is funny, truthful and informative in this book about both muscular dystrophy and the disability rights movement. Read morePublished on February 9, 2013 by Kat Quentin