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LOOK UP FOR YES by Julia Tavalaro


by Julia Tavalaro & Richard Tayson

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-56836-171-8
Publisher: Kodansha

The horrifying tale of a woman imprisoned in her own body. Tavalaro was a young wife and mother in 1966 when she suffered two strokes that sent her into a coma. Although she awoke soon after, the strokes had left her paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak. Believed to be brain-dead, she was largely abandoned by her husband. The story of Tavalaro's six-year attempt to prove herself cognizant and to be treated as such is gripping and terrifying. With the little movement she was capable of, Tavalaro tried to gain the attention of her caregivers, mostly women who referred to her as ``the vegetable'' and brutalized her with their thoughtlessness and callous words. Finally, a speech therapist, Arlene Kraat, uncovered the hospital staff's mistake. Of course, the end of one nightmare was also the beginning of another. Still paralyzed and mute, Tavalaro struggled to learn how to communicate, to gain the freedom of an electric wheelchair fitted to her needs, and to create a life of sorts within the confines of her deformed body and the often inhospitable hospital. And she continues to fight for the basic respect she deserves for having overcome the harshest of obstacles while retaining her humanity throughout. But while Tavalaro's story is compelling, her chronicle of it—compiled with much help from poet and writing instructor Tayson—is not. It often seems like reminiscences tossed together, and while Tayson claims to have been true to the author's voice, there are many passages that the reader is hard-pressed to believe emerged from Tavalaro, the poor daughter of immigrant parents and a high-school dropout who never read much more than the occasional romance novel. Still, worthy for the powerful insight it gives into the lives of the disabled. (8 pages photos, not seen)