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Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled Paperback – December 22, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; New edition edition (December 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807070874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807070871
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nancy Mairs, a gifted essayist who is fierce and funny by turns, landed in a wheelchair years ago due to degenerative multiple sclerosis that has sapped much of her strength. She bends an agile mind and sharp tongue around the daily tasks of seeing eye-to-navel with a world that clearly prefers nondisabled "normals." One candid, pained essay tells of longing to give care, not just accept it. Others describe the shifting line in the sands marking limits she could live with; teeth-grinding frustration at foolish building practices that keep even public bathrooms out of her reach; and a discomforting adventure as an undercover agent exposing a drug fraud aimed at people with diseases like MS. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Mairs (Ordinary Time) is a writer of heightened sensibility not entirely attributable to the years she has spent wheelchair-bound because of advancing multiple sclerosis. From her viewpoint, approximately at the level of other people's navels, she constructs here "a Baedeker for a country to which no one travels willingly," the story of a life shaped by severe physical disability. In this collection of ruminative, exploratory essays, there is also earthy humor as Mairs addresses issues that range from physical intimacy and a spouse's health problems to concerns with public facilities and her advocacy achievements. The author, a vibrant, well-traveled poet, teacher and mother, takes readers inside a world that at times seem not to want her. Although Mairs disavows the inspirational thrust of her essays, they are perforce filled with insights that will be helpful to a large population, especially women. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
In the end you will see that it was well worth your time and attention.
E. B.
I think anyone with a disability, caretaker, or loved one of a person with a disabulity can get something out of this book.
Kevin M. Orth
Nancy Mairs writes about the human condition with humor, compassion, and ruthless honesty.
Kim Boykin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Robert Dorroh on March 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Reviewer: robert dorroh from Sonora, CA United States Nancy Mairs, with devastating honesty, chronicles life as a cripple (her choice of word) in poignant essays in "Waist High in the World."
Beset with multiple sclerosis and bouts with clinical and situational depression, she offsets these stumbling blocks with joy, candor, eloquence, and cultural and political insights. It is a book for everybody, not just the disabled, for it challenges our fears, cultural hangups and citizenship: "The more perspectives that can be brought to bear on human experience, even from the slant of a wheelchair or a hospital bed, or through the ears of a blind person or the fingers of someone who is deaf, the richer that experience becomes." She attacks the stereotype that cripples must be passive and unfailingly polite in a culture that doesn't want to deal with them: "Beyond cheerfulness and patience, people don't expect much of a cripple's character."
Pondering her husband and caretaker George's battle with cancer, she offers a balanced look at suicide in the face of his death. Though she has attempted suicide "more than once," she questions the right-to-die movement, which extolls "rational" suicide: "Since hopelessness is a distinctive symptom of depression, which is an emotional disorder, actions carried out in a despairing state seem to me intrinsically irrational. This last time I clung to shreds of reason, which saved me." Still, she sees suicide as a possibility: "I want to be the one in charge of my life, including its end."
Why should society pay for the misfortunes of others? people ask.
Read more ›
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kim Boykin on July 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Nancy Mairs writes about the human condition with humor, compassion, and ruthless honesty. This is a book of personal reflections about disability, embodiment, marriage, religion, and lots of other things, but fundamentally about the possibility of honestly acknowledging all the pain and confusion in our lives and at the same time--within that pain and confusion--living fully, gratefully, joyously.

Wow. What a gift. Thank you, Nancy Mairs.

This book and "Ordinary Time" are my favorites by Mairs.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Facing chronic disease myself, I've turned to books like this for information, comfort, challenge and ideas. Nancy Mairs is the best I've found for writing honestly about what it means for people (women in particular) to face chronic, degenerative illness. She writes from her personal experience, but I see myself in her struggles. A book to read and re-read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Nancy Mairs writes that there is a "tangle of reasons" why readers might want to read this book. She writes for readers who crave to know more about life with multiple sclerosis and depression (her own diseases) or life with disability in general -- although she says she can't offer generalizations. I found the essays the most compelling when they were the most personal and unflinching. Mairs also does a good job of teasing out the issues in "right to die" and quality of life controversies. Altogether, a satisfying and thought-provoking read for anyone who would like to encounter a fiercely independent and often joyous woman who declares herself a "cripple."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Fire on January 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
I had to read this book for one of my women's study's classes nearly 7 years ago. It has been too long to remember much of the detail but what I do remember is the depth of the impression that was left upon me. It is a very difficult task to look at someone's life, through their eyes, and experience their total destruction of being...slow....poignant...and startlingly real.

As we discussed this book in class, one of the girls ran out in tears, later coming back and disclosing that she, too, suffered from MS, making the book that much real and impressionable for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. B. on October 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
Nancy Mairs writes of her life from a wheelchair and gives voice to the disabled. Afflicted with multiple sclerosis, she has also battled depression, but still finds joy in life. The book gives one insights into the world of the disabled and the challenges they face. In our culture where little is expected of the disabled and where they are often ignored, she calls herself a cripple and speaks out against passiveness in the handicapped. She examines the right-to-die for those for whom live/pain has become unbearable and draws the conclusions that she, the type who needs to be in charge,wants to continue to do so at the end of her life. Her husband, George, a cancer survivor, is her caregiver and a blessed one at that.
She advocates that through our government and as individuals we should take care of each other because that is what makes us human. The first chapter is difficult to stay with, but hang in there, it gets better as it goes along. In the end you will see that it was well worth your time and attention. It was interesting to me her view of England vs the U.S. She finds the English more accommodating and credits their having lived through a war on their own grounds. Eunice Boeve author of Ride a Shadowed Trail
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More About the Author

NANCY MAIRS

Nancy Mairs, though born by accident of war in Long Beach, California, grew up north of Boston. In 1964, she received the A.B. cum laude from Wheaton College (Norton, Massachusetts), which made her a Doctor of Humane Letters thirty years later. She earned the M.F.A. in creative writing (poetry) in 1975 and the Ph.D. in English literature (with a minor in English education) in 1984 from the University of Arizona. She has taught writing and literature at Salpointe Catholic High School, the University of Arizona, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

A poet and an essayist, she was awarded the 1984 Western States Book Award in poetry for In All the Rooms of the Yellow House (Confluence Press, 1984) and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1991. The Arizona Humanities Council gave her their 2008 Literary Treasure Award. Her first work of nonfiction, a collection of essays entitled Plaintext: Deciphering a Woman's Life, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 1986. Since then, she has written a memoir, Remembering the Bone House, a spiritual autobiography, Ordinary Time: Cycles in Marriage, Faith, and Renewal, and three more books of essays, Carnal Acts, Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled. These are available from Beacon Press, as are her most recent books, A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories, which was supported by a fellowship from the Project on Death in America of the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute, and A Dynamic God.

She and her husband, George, a retired high-school English teacher, continue to live in Tucson, though they make public appearances throughout the country. A Research Associate and SIROW Scholar with the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, she has also served on the boards of the Arizona Center for Disability Law, Kore Press, the Coalition of Arizonans To Abolish the Death Penalty, and ARTability.

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