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PALE GIRL SPEAKS by Hillary Fogelson


A Year Uncovered

by Hillary Fogelson

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-58005-444-7
Publisher: Seal Press

A year in the life of an anxiety-ridden melanoma patient.

Fogelson was diagnosed with melanoma at age 25, an astonishingly young age to have to cope with such a serious diagnosis. Her youth, combined with the severity of the diagnosis, may serve as an excuse for the attitudes and behaviors Fogelson exhibits in this account of her first year living with cancer. Unfortunately, her personality flaws overshadow her worthwhile public-health message. When she wanted to volunteer for the hospital where she received treatment, she was told she had to go through orientation like all the other volunteers. For voicing this reasonable requirement, in her mind she called the volunteer coordinator “a big fat fucking bitch.” Fogelson has little sense of perspective. Her response to 9/11 was that those who were shocked by the tragedy must be “damn lucky,” because unlike her, they must have never experienced anything bad. She knows that “bad things happen all the time,” evidently unable to comprehend the difference in scale between a personal crisis and a massive public catastrophe. The most unsettling part of the book is the way in which she pokes fun at the overweight, unkempt patient (suffering from mental health problems) who preceded her at the therapist’s office. Fogelson's vicious mockery may lead readers to wonder if she believes that only wealthy and attractive people deserve compassion. Because of the disease’s genetic component, her father was examined, too, and he received the same diagnosis. The author’s obvious dismay at this development lends her some sympathy, which she squanders by chronicling her bullying of her father into a vaccine trial.

Fogelson is not talented enough to turn her experiences into humor; instead, she comes off as irritating and even cruel.