A performance artist recounts the painful metamorphosis that warped her youth.
Prior to age nine, the only characteristic distinguishing the author’s childhood from that of countless other Texans was that much of it had been spent with her family in Berlin, where her Army father had been stationed. But that year, gradually and without warning, Galloway lost her hearing and found her vision severely impaired. She also began to experience out-of-body hallucinations. The first to discover the diminishment of her senses was her fourth-grade teacher, who noticed that the top-notch student who used to sit at the front of the class had begun to struggle when she was moved to the back. A battery of tests soon revealed both the severity of Galloway’s hearing and vision problems and the cause—the antibiotic mycin, which had been used to treat a severe kidney infection that her mother suffered during her pregnancy. Learning that the drug was already known to cause fetal complications at the time it was administered to her mother—along with the stories of other handicapped friends’ traumatic births—crippled Galloway. She was overcome with a “paranoid sense that every corner of the world has a mean streak” and experienced an “existential funk” she still wrestles with decades later. “The whole round world,” she writes, “can feel like a single eye glaring at your flawed body asking the unanswerable of you in particular—‘Why ever should you matter?’ ” In addition to dealing with her “overwhelming loss of faith,” the author also struggled with her sexual identity, finally coming to the realization that she was gay. Though institutionalized twice and close to committing suicide “eleven and a half” times, Galloway turned to performance, taking her needs for connection to the cabaret stage and now to the page.
A frank, bitingly humorous memoir.