This gritty story of a woman's desperate struggle to overcome severe chronic progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) is a sometimes grating reminder that the disabled are no better than the rest of us. By her own account, MacFarlane is no angel. After an economically privileged but emotionally deprived childhood, she entered adolescence angry and self-absorbed, a self-described ``fighter.'' Eventually she found her niche as a consumer advocate, uncovering scams on a TV news show in Orlando, Fla. Fairly happily married as well, she was on a roll. Then an intermittent weakness in her left leg was diagnosed as MS. MacFarlane shrugged off the news, convinced that exercise and sheer willpower would keep the disease at bay. But, after a period of remission, it returned in full force. After a fall that left her unable to move for hours until help arrived, MacFarlane finally succumbed to the use of a cane and a walker. She began to lose control of her bladder. She cut back on her workload, and her marriage collapsed under the strain. One treatment after another failed, and her stubborn hope of recovering began to fade. Then her ego suffered a shuddering blow: The former medical reporter and longtime consumer watchdog fell for a classic con. After reading about a doctor who claimed to have a cure for MS, MacFarlane convinced her mother to pay him $100,000 for ``treatments'' that left her worse off than before. She was soon confined to a wheelchair, counting on aides and a ``canine companion'' to do simple tasks like turning a light on or off. Now only her characteristic rage and blind determination seemed to keep her going. She filed suit against the doctor with the phony cure. And she composed this book—with the help of her twin, Patricia, whom she cavalierly dubs ``my Number 2 pencil.'' This scrappy tale is a testament to what a powerful will can- -and can't—do in the face of severe MS.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-02-578110-3

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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