AN EXPOSURE OF THE HEART by Rebecca Busselle


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An affecting memoir of the year professional photographer Busselle spent documenting--and becoming emotionally involved with--patients and staff at the Wassaic Developmental Center, an institution for the "developmentally disabled" in Upstate New York. Busselle avoids sentimentalizing Wassaic's "clients," admitting straight-off her own fascinated revulsion when she first saw these unusual, retarded, often physically deformed people. "A boy with an enormous head lay on a bed. . .His lips pulled up over yellow horse teeth": Thus commences the author's initiation into Wassaic, a traumatic day that sees her unable to take a photograph and then escaping with great relief to her healthy daughter, Katrina. As winter passes into spring, however, Busselle slowly learns to cherish the humanity of Wassaic's patients: 12-year-old Emily, with the mental capacity of a two-year-old, earns a special place in her heart; others--including Gregory, unable to break out of his own mysterious world; and John Doe #11, who communicates through rhythmical mutterings--emerge as distinct, human people beneath Busselle's compassionate gaze. A poignant Christmas celebration (the decorations are hung high to keep the kids from grabbing them: "That's what Christmas means in this room, something silver, glittery, and twinkling, too far up too reach") closes out Busselle's year at Wassaic. Hugely honest and carefully, attentively observed and written; a humane, eyes-open account of people too often kept behind closed doors.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1989
ISBN: 393-02547-0
Publisher: Norton
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