Sunday, April 11, 2010
Lucy Grealy was an award-winning poet and a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her close friend and roommate at both Sarah Lawrence College and Iowa was Ann Patchett, author of “Bel Canto”. Lucy Grealy’s memoir “Autobiography of a Face” was published in 1994. Lucy Grealy died in New York City at the age of 39.
When she was nine years old Lucy Grealy collided, in the playground, with another girl hitting their faces into each other. The pain Lucy felt went from a tooth ache, to a fractured jaw, to a dental cyst. The final diagnosis was “Ewing’s sarcoma”, a potentially terminal cancer. Lucy Grealy tells a story of strength and suffering. She endured almost three years of radiation and chemotherapy, driving with her mother from a suburb to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City five days a week for treatments. What this child endured is difficult to comprehend. When she cried her mother told her to be strong. But she couldn’t figure out how to do that.
She finally returned to school with a third of her jaw removed. The cruelty of children faced with someone who is different is hard to understand. Lucy Grealy states, “It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison.”
She went on to endure over thirty reconstructive procedures on her face before she came to terms with the fact that she was finally whole. The journey was a painful one for Lucy Grealy but one she was able to write about with eloquence and wit. She suffered with huge physical pain, the constant pain of being different and an overall feeling of loneliness and being unlovable. She went on to be a successful poet and writer. This memoir is one that will be very hard to forget. It leaves the reader with feelings of overall sadness that our society has so much difficultly accepting someone, even a child, who looks “different”.
The memoir has a wonderful Afterward by Ann Patchett that gives the reader some insight into the adult Lucy Grealy. Lucy Grealy’s memoir is a great story about finding one's true self when faced with insurmountable adversity.