HEAD CASE by Cole Cohen
Kirkus Star


My Brain and Other Wonders
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The story of a woman with a hole in her brain the size of a lemon.

We meet Cohen when she is 26 years old. For many of those years, she has suffered from disorientation, exhaustion, and not knowing left from right, which in turn have given her a shattering combination of insecurity, fear, shame, anxiety and panic. “I can’t judge distance, time, or space, read maps, travel independently without getting lost; or drive…you would never realize that as I’m walking next to you down the street, you are leading us both,” she writes. The author is verbally dexterous, however, and her memoir is rich with yearning and ache, conveying a scrunched sense of claustrophobia and imagery of cinematic quality. Throughout the book, Cohen ably conveys the gravity of her condition: “Being a fuck-up is an excuse as flimsy as it is sturdy. It’s a container for the cluttered detritus of all my smaller mistakes”; “I am thrown into the adult world like a match into gasoline. Burning down everything in my path is an organic reaction.” This is the story of her days from her first diagnosis—with digressions into her youth, when doctors were clueless about the causes of her condition—until today, in her early 30s. She follows her tracks through college and dialectical behavioral therapy, her tender and grueling first real romantic relationship, graduate school in writing, and the simple, everyday activities that spook her, such as walking out the door. This is not a short period of time, and the writing has a vital compression and severity, which is likely the result of a lifetime of an “anger, sadness, and pain...so epic as to only be properly graphed seismically.” The author also delivers flashes of humor to add levity to the proceedings.

A beautifully wrenching memoir as piercing as smelling salts.

Pub Date: May 19th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-62779-189-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2015


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