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Autobiography of a Face Paperback – March 18, 2003
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At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. In this strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. Vividly portraying the pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasure of wanting to be special, Grealy captures with unique insight what it is like as a child and young adult to be torn between two warring impulses: to feel that more than anything else we want to be loved for who we are, while wishing desperately and secretly to be perfect --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Diagnosed at age nine with Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer that severely disfigured her face, Grealy lost half her jaw, recovered after two and half years of chemotherapy and radiation, then underwent plastic surgery over the next 20 years to reconstruct her jaw. This harrowing, lyrical autobiographical memoir, which grew out of an award-winning article published in Harper's in 1993, is a striking meditation on the distorting effects of our culture's preoccupation with physical beauty. Extremely self-conscious and shy, Grealy endured insults and ostracism as a teenager in Spring Valley, N.Y. At Sarah Lawrence College in the mid-1980s, she discovered poetry as a vehicle for her pent-up emotions. During graduate school at the University of Iowa, she had a series of unsatisfying sexual affairs, hoping to prove she was lovable. No longer eligible for medical coverage, she moved to London to take advantage of Britain's socialized medicine, and underwent a 13-hour operation in Scotland. Grealy now lives in New York City. Her discovery that true beauty lies within makes this a wise and healing book.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Lucy's personality and her perceptions were clearly warped by her early experiences and she doesn't try to deny this. I think that being so intensely focused on herself as a child did make her very selfish in some ways but it also gave her the gift of being able to analyse herself in a highly perceptive way. Her insights into wanting to be loved and fit in are universal and will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outsider and struggled with self-acceptance. A compelling read.
Grealy is a poet. Each sentence was crafted with so much love, meaning, and feeling. Throughout the book, she takes the reader into her confidence while relating her complicated relationship with herself, and acceptance of her imperfections. Diagnosed with cancer at the age of nine, Lucy spends most of her child and adult life in and out of hospitals battling the disease, and then reconstructing her face due to the aftermath of invasive treatments. Trying to define why she was destined to her painful fate, and coping with her fear of never being loved, Grealy dissects loneliness and conformity until it’s an uncomfortable kernel.
“I felt pulled in two different directions. I had tasted what it was like to feel loved, to feel whole, and I had liked that taste. But fear kept insisting that I needed someone else’s longing to believe in that love. No matter how philosophical my ideals, I boiled every equation down to these simple terms: was I lovable or was I ugly?”
I liked the way this book ended; it was almost hopeful. Grealy’s premature death was really sad. Any Google search will fill you in on the details. I wish she had been able to overcome her past, and find her happiness. What a deep loss.
The saddest part of the story is the one that the book does not tell us: 8 years after the publication of this book Ms. Grealy died of a heroin overdose at the age of 39.