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May 21st, 2007 - Deirdre on reading, writing and living

May. 21st, 2007 11:18 am Book #24: Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy

Children are cruel. Any perceived difference becomes an excuse for stares, taunts, teasing, and occasionally violence. Lucy Grealy found this out the hard way. At age nine she was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a form of cancer that forced doctors to remove one third of her lower jaw. After enduring both radiation and chemotherapy treatments for over two years she was left permanently scarred.

Her beautifully written and compelling memoir Autobiography of a Face documents her life before, during, and after the ordeal. She has trouble accepting her new face and people's reactions to it. As Grealy allows readers to understand her struggle to feel worthy and attractive, she also guides us through the maze of operations and hospital stays that she endured in an attempt to rebuilt the missing space and reclaim her "original face."

Ultimately Grealy finds solace and transcendence in writing and literature. This book is a wonderful product of that process. Grealy's story came to a sudden end, eight years after the book was published, when she died in late 2002 from a accidental drug overdose.

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