Autobiography of a Face

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Lucy Grealy tells a story about not fitting in, unbearable pain that takes up residence in one's head as loneliness and confusion, questioning what things mean, being scared and lost in your family, enduring intense physical pain, and most importantly, figuring out who you are. Lucy had no idea she might die, even though the survival rate for Ewing's sarcoma was only five percent. She does not present her parents as overly afraid for her life, either. Her autobiography is not a story about the fear of death, but about such courage and anguish. Lucy shows how she falls under the spell of her disability, allowing it to control her life and dictate her future to a greater extent than it would otherwise. Having a disability means that sometimes you have to say "I'm disabled, therefore I can't...", but as Lucy finally learns, it also means sometimes saying "I'm disabled, but I can!" Through her traumatic tale of misfortune, she has sifted out truths about beauty, the public, and self-concept. Lucy's description of her early disease is particularly upsetting. Her family, overwhelmed by financial and emotional turmoil because of the stress of her illness, is not as visible as the part they actually played. Lucy's mother was a somewhat blurred figure who seemed to disappear by the middle of the book and portrayed her father as a particularly vague individual. However, the day-to-day trappings of illness force her to rely on her mother, whose relationship is one of the most disturbed, and moving. Early on she comments that when she was a child she didn't understand that her mother's anger was caused by depression, but she never elaborates on this observation. Her mother compares being brave with being good, and says: "At a time when everything in my family was unpredictable and dysfunctional… here I had been supplied with a formula of behavior for gaining acceptance and, I believed, love. All I had to do was perform heroically and I could personally save my entire...
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