June 19, 2020 0 By admin

Lucinda Margaret Grealy (June 3, – December 18, ) was an Irish- American poet and memoirist who wrote Autobiography of a Face in Before reading Autobiography of a Face, I’d only read one thing by Lucy Grealy. It was “The Country of Childhood” from her As Seen on TV. Autobiography of a Face is a memoir written by award-winning poet Lucy Grealy. It describes her childhood struggles with jaw cancer and the resulting.

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As I said from my very first post, whether a post on here is about blindness or Breaking Bad or organic chemistry or a book review, I always want the underlying focus to be on storytelling. I was hungry for more of her work, and then once I found out a little bit about her story, I picked up her memoir. There is even a chapter where she and a hospital friend sort of con a hospital volunteer into taking them to see the animal lab and get somewhat traumatized by seeing the vivisected and caged animals.

Lucy details the excruciating pain of chemotherapy while also conveying her childhood ignorance about trealy seriousness of what was going on.

She has to have a major surgery to remove the cancer in her jaw, and then spends years and years, operation after operation, trying to reconstruct her face. Lucy is very cerebral and she comes up with all kinds of mental gymnastics to avoid her situation.

She philosophizes about gresly. She focuses on things like trying not to cry at chemotherapy. I felt there was something very stoic about her approach, almost trying to sublimate her pain, physical and social and emotional, think herself out of it.

Lucy Grealy – Wikipedia

It really left no room for protest, for falling into self-pity, and as a reader, I was not having those kinds of responses. I wanted to scream and wail for these things not to happen to her.

I felt bad for her, but not exactly in a pity way, more empathy. And she wrote about how boys used her to mock another boy, Jerry, by calling her his girlfriend, meant as the ultimate insult to Jerry. One thing that Grealy does really well is capture how this shifts slowly as she gets older. And then as she gets older, this shifts and she becomes more conscious of and more bothered by her face, her circumstances.

She spends a lot of time preoccupied with these thoughts, which reads true. Eventually, after countless surgeries that remove bone and skin from other parts of her body in hopes of reconstructing her jaw, she decides to stop looking in mirrors for awhile, to start her own life instead of waiting. She did an excellent job of developing these shifts in perspective over time without summarizing it or spelling it out overmuch. It felt very genuine. A woman going through an ordeal like this and overcoming it seems standard material for a memoir.


It almost always has something to offer. There are memoir things that she does particularly well. One is that she fesses up to her own stuff, which always makes me trust an author or a character. Especially in the early days of her cancer struggles, she writes a lot about loving and craving the attention from doctors and other people in the hospital. It conveys the kid perspective, and illustrates something not super flattering about herself, this constant need for attention and specialness.

I want to go back to the stoicism. I think in some ways it helps things but in other ways it may hurt her. I tend to really appreciate this approach in writing. I also think this choice works against her in some ways. It casts a bit of doubt. Kids, no matter how smart, are self-involved and teenagers feel self-pity when they are different.

Autobiography of a Face

They feel enraged when life seems unfair. I get that the stoicism faec being in her mind all the time was her way of dealing, and I think it was done well, but I think some parts would have felt more true with a little more of these messy emotions.

The books reads a little bit untrue without more of it. Not majorly so, just a slight shade off from totally true.

I think it would have felt more real, and given the reader more of a tether as to what to feel. But then I thought, maybe this is what happens without that tether. It becomes very easy to project your feelings while reading it onto her. And maybe the absence of certain emotions makes them bigger in invisibility. It could have grounded things and given the book another dimension.

And it could have been, in some way, truer. There is a strong sense of distance in the book, partly because of the things I discussed above.

So I think she had a definite artistic vision for what she wanted to create. She alludes to problems at home before she gets cancer, but never says what they were. An article I read has quotes from her mother and twin sister that also allude to some big family struggles and problems. Different books are written at different levels of closeness and intimacy, and there are a lot of choices an author has to make to create that consistent level, or varying the distance over the arc of a story.


Do you want to write something excruciatingly intimate?

Lucy Grealy – In the Mind’s Eye: An Autobiography of a Face – adogcalledpain

Do you want to be more removed? Is there a certain feeling you want to evoke somehow and what degree of closeness fits what it is you want to evoke?

I think the main point is to be deliberate about it, to consciously choose. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was a compelling story and extremely well-written.

And yet, even without a fix, there is triumph. Grealy does an excellent job of portraying how her thoughts and feelings about her cancer and her face evolved slowly over time, which can be really hard to do without force-feeding it.

I read both Auto of a Face and Truth and Beauty recently.

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Lucy was an artist, and she was beautiful. What do YOU think?

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