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Lessons in Taxidermy: A Compendium of Safety and Danger (Punk Planet Books) Paperback – April 1, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lavender, writer and online publisher of the parenting zine Hip Mama, holds nothing back as she recounts her life spent in and out of hospitals and her subsequent dissociation from her own body and emotions. She struggles with health problems from birth, which are compounded by her surroundings, including frequent encounters with street fights, domestic violence and poverty. Her voice is as strong as the front she puts up for the multitude of doctors she sees, and it's hard not to be in awe of what one fragile human being can withstand in the course of such a short lifetime (Lavender is now 35). Before Lavender has graduated from high school, she's endured cancer of the throat and skin (diagnosed as terminal at one point), cysts requiring massive jaw surgery, life-threatening allergies, internal infections and a major car accident resulting in multiple serious injuries. While Lavender herself steers far from any sort of self-aggrandizing, and her prose is somewhat inexpert, witnessing her strength and sheer determination to live makes this striking book completely engrossing. When questioned once about how she sees herself, Lavender explains, "primary identity is found in my body, in the scars, in the injuries and injustice and disease and decay." Lavender's struggles continue as she faces childbirth and recurrent health difficulties, but as her challenges grow, so does her strength to meet them, and this unforgettable memoir ends with Lavender's desire to "live as much as possible while I have the time." (Apr.)

Review

"Bee Lavender is a fantastic writer. Her work is deep and personal and I don't think there are any places she's scared to go."
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Product Details

  • Series: Punk Planet Books
  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Akashic Books (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888451793
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888451795
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,207,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jennifer on April 25, 2015
Format: Paperback
I know that this book is supposed to make me shake my head and say, "What a remarkable woman!" Instead, I am shaking my head and thinking, "What a load of bull!" I am medically trained, and I am here to say that I believe many of the events to be exaggerated or entirely fabricated. Even if they weren't, the author's tone is at once self-promoting and condemnatory of others. The style is also lacking, in that three quarters of the book is a chronological ad nauseam description of the author's ailments and treatments, and the last quarter is a bewildering piecemeal sketch of the most recent half of her life. Lavender also seems to be proud of the fact she and the women in her family are physically violent, equating doing damage to a partner with being "strong." I don't believe anyone has the right to hit anyone, and a woman should not stand for abuse, but the manner in which the author describes her family's violent tendencies seems more like bragging than disgust. Some students at a nearby high school are reading this book for a class, and I don't think this attitude toward violence should be promoted to young adults.
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The story is engrossing. But something doesn't feel quite authentic. If the author is writing in this detached style because she's endured so much (certainly a possibility), I apologize. But characters other than Lavender don't come alive, and their motivations and personalities are muted and obscured. All Lavender's teachers accuse her of malingering. (Really? All?) Medical staff are uniformly insensitive and incompetent. (Not even one or two exceptions?) The descriptions of some of the medical procedures Lavender is forced to endure are truly horrific, and her ability to prevail is impressive. But I wish I had a better sense of the other players in this drama.
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Format: Paperback
Let me start off by saying a friend lent this book to me knowing how much I treasure helpful, positive books about cancer. I'm not entirely sure if this is a true story or not, but the overly-dramatic writing made me feel like it was an attempt to minimize the struggle of those who truly have cancer. The events didn't seem to tie into the emotions in the story, unless of course the events, or the emotions, were over-exaggerated in a way that reminded me of an old college roommate I suffered through that had been diagnosed with histrionic disorder (where there drama surrounded even the smallest of things).

As far as a book to help those struggling through cancer, I would recommend highly No Place Like Home by Girard, which is very beautifully written and will give the reader more of a feeling of relating to the author.
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Format: Paperback
I am stunned by this book and I suggest that everyone should read it. It's a tough and frightening book, but somehow quite uplifting. I feel disoriented and almost drunk after reading it. I somehow feel more vunurable to the possibilities that bad things like this could happen to me too, but also calm. She goes very low and deep into hell, but as the book goes along, she then seems to transcend it all and enjoy her strange life. At the end of the book I almost wanted to be her, and to have her perspective on life. This is a somewhat strange outcome of the book when you consider all the savage events that happen it it. I couldn't put it down. I read it in one long sitting while all of the things I was supposed to do yesterday went undone.

On the back of the book it says that it's "apocryphal, troubling, cathartic, and important". I agree with this 100%
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Indelible: if I could choose one word to describe Bee Lavender's autobiography of a life lived within a treacherous body, it would be that. Yes, this intense narrative is deftly paced with almost just barely enough time for a reader to catch her breath before the next corporal one-two punch knocks the remaining wind right out of her, but that's not what makes reading this book an experience I am sure I will never forget. Rather it is the sensibility of its author; she neither judges nor instructs, seeks neither pity nor admiration. To have a body is to be betrayed by it; this is true for all of us, always. For Bee Lavender, alas, more so. That is why her forthright reportage from the island of infirmity is a gift to readers.
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