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SUCH A PRETTY GIRL

A STORY OF STRUGGLE, EMPOWERMENT, AND DISABILITY PRIDE

“I was the luckiest woman in the world,” insists the author in this revelatory and deeply moving memoir that clearly shows...

From pity to empowerment, a woman who contracted polio as a baby illuminates her personal changes in attitude and accomplishment amid sweeping societal changes in rights for the disabled.

As a child in Sicily, LaSpina struggled with her family to understand the disease. Was it a sign of the family’s sin, and was she the cross they had to bear? Was it her destiny? If so, was she destined to be single and celibate? A nun or an old maid? Her father didn’t think so; he moved the family to America, hoping that better medical care would provide a miracle cure. The author found herself in hospitals with other children who had mobility issues and other diseases. She underwent a series of painful surgeries, intending to be able to walk and leave behind the wheelchair she had learned to love. Ultimately, she did walk, with braces and crutches, but she kept falling, breaking bones and complicating her life. She wanted to please her father, who had focused the family’s life and resources on enabling her to walk. Yet she was also becoming part of an activist movement that stressed acceptance and independence. Once feeling so insular, alone, and helpless, LaSpina, who created and taught courses in disability studies at the New School, began to feel “good to belong, to be part of something. I wasn’t sure what that something was, but I knew I wanted to be part of it.” Her memoir encompasses activism, civil disobedience, and legislation that would help move disability from the realm of disease requiring treatment (and eliciting pity) to respect, acceptance, and equal protection under the law. The author also addresses sexuality and romance, showing how she discovered that her life need not be limited as it once seemed destined to be.

“I was the luckiest woman in the world,” insists the author in this revelatory and deeply moving memoir that clearly shows how and why she came to feel that way.

Pub Date: July 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61332-099-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: New Village Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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