Disfigured: On Fairy tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc (Coach House Books 2020)
Reviewed by Katie Vogel
Within the first essay of Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space, I encountered a Joan Didion quote with which I am familiar. It is a quote that exemplifies what Amanda Leduc does in this book, which is as much an exploration of the ways that Western fairy tales reinforce and embody beliefs about disability and happiness as it is a retelling of her own story as a disabled person. It is a reminder that the stories we tell, why we tell them, and who is or is not included in them matters.
The quote is: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
The Kissing of Kissing by Hannah Emerson (Milkweed 2022)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
A few days ago, a friend sent me an article about a black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which scientists recently captured on film for the first time. The author writes: “despite its ‘supermassive” designation, is not very large in the grand scheme of things.”
Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg by Emily Rapp Black (Notting Hill Editions 2021)
Reviewed by Melissa Greenwood
Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is an essay collection by Emily Rapp Black that follows two female artists for whom “create or die” and “laugh or die” are important mottos. These artists, Frida Kahlo and Rapp Black herself, live through their share of heartache. They know that art is survival, especially after several “crucible experience[s].” For Kahlo: polio, a “philandering husband,” miscarriages, and a street car crash that is followed by thirty-two operations, including one that leaves her an amputee. For Rapp Black: five surgeries during her childhood (a birth defect requires that, at the age of four, her left leg be amputated), two divorces, and the loss of her first child—her nearly three-year-old son, Ronan—to a terminal illness, Tay Sachs disease.
In the Field Between Us by Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison (Persea books 2020)
Reviewed by Joanna Currey
Once, in college, I had a long conversation in the middle of a sidewalk with a friend about whether stories could be considered the basic building blocks of human experience, like an abstract counterpart to molecules. Story is how people make sense of the past and dream about the future. It structures how we have conversations, how we understand relationships, how we share memories, and how we build identities. By organizing pieces of information into story, that information gains meaning, and the protagonists of those stories gain purpose and trajectory— things I and the people I know need to avoid living in a perpetual state of existential breakdown.
I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature by Lucia Perillo (Trinity University Press, 2007)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
In memory of a favorite local poet, a woman I regret having never met.
I finished reading Lucia Perillo’s memoir, I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing, only a few weeks ago. Despite the fact that she’d spent decades living in the city I call home, this was the first time I’d finished a book of hers in its entirety – before her memoir, I’d read snippets of poems, fragments from each of her books.
Despite the fact that Perillo writes almost exclusively about chronic illness and her daily struggle to keep her body in motion, I was shocked to find that she’d passed away nearly a week ago, without the usual cacophony of the literary community. Continue reading