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BUT MY BRAIN HAD OTHER IDEAS

A MEMOIR OF RECOVERY FROM BRAIN INJURY

At turns harrowing and inspiring; also serves as a valuable piece of education on recovery from brain injury.

Brandon’s debut memoir details her experiences with her “bloody brain,” from stays in the intensive care unit to a turbulent life after surgery.

In 2007, Brandon worked as a math professor at Carnegie Mellon, well respected among students and colleagues. After experiencing strange symptoms—bouts of confusion and numbness—doctors discovered cavernous angiomas in Brandon’s brain and brain stem. These angiomas, described as “malformed blood vessels in [the] brain,” cause severe problems when they bleed. After initial treatment, Brandon’s doctors believed that she was out of danger. Within six months, however, the bleeds came back. She experienced multiple seizures and frequent bouts of confusion. Brandon decided to have a risky set of surgeries to remove the angiomas. The surgery was successful, but its invasive nature forced Brandon into extensive rehab. Recovery from brain injury doesn’t occur linearly, though, and Brandon dealt with myriad mental and physical issues, including re-establishing her balance and retraining herself to read. Once out of rehab, Brandon found support from friends and family. Not everyone initially understood her situation, however, often carelessly adding to her discomfort. Brandon ably describes her episodes, and the reader feels transported into her mind when, for instance, she has a “shutdown,” her brain momentarily shutting down after an overflow of sensory input, “settling into...a protective cocoon.” These moments succeed in making readers understand Brandon’s plight, her frustrations, and, eventually, her triumphs. The memoir follows a chronological timeline, but there are also chapters that focus on small experiences, interruptions not unlike the stop-and-start nature of her recovery. In the end, Brandon doesn’t sugarcoat her account. Despite her eventual return to teaching, the reader ultimately knows there will be more to overcome.

At turns harrowing and inspiring; also serves as a valuable piece of education on recovery from brain injury.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63152-246-8

Page Count: 220

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2017

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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