Showing 191 - 200 of 206 annotations in the genre "Memoir"

Outside Passage

Scully, Julia

Last Updated: Aug-17-1998
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled, A Memoir of an Alaskan Childhood, this spare, compelling work recalls young Julia's difficult and unusual life in a splintered family living "at the edge of the world." When Julia was born in 1929 the family had just moved to Seattle and entered an economic crisis--"somehow, my father had been bilked out of their money." (17) The marriage went downhill as poverty and the father's serious illness compounded an underlying conjugal incompatibility.

Julia was only seven years old when she and her older sister Lillian found their father dead--a suicide. "Nothing is said about how my father died, or even, in fact, that he is dead." (8) Not long thereafter Julia's mother, Rose, without any explanation or advance warning, left the girls at the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum; there they remained for two years. Rose went to Nome, Alaska to try to find work. "Meanwhile, I strive to be a model orphan. I do all my chores . . . I'm quiet, do well in school, am extremely polite. And most of the time, I'm afraid." (33)

There follows another stay in a different orphanage. Here "I never hear my name . . . No one ever touches me. And, in my memory of that time, that place, I am always alone." (72) Finally, they join their mother again in a remote mining outpost of Alaska where Rose operates a roadhouse. Moving with the seasons back and forth between the outpost and the city of Nome, Julia's life takes on a semblance of normalcy. The environment is strange but interesting, the men who frequent the roadhouse are rough but friendly--there is a sense of camaraderie.

As Julia reaches puberty she becomes subliminally aware of a relationship between her mother and the owner of the Nome liquor store, Cappy. Cappy is married--his family is back in Seattle. There is never any open display of affection between Cappy and Rose, but he eats his meals with them and is almost a surrogate father to Julia and her sister. Suddenly Rose decides to move the family to Fairbanks. Here there is a "secret scenario" that Julia only pieces together many years later. As the events unfold in Fairbanks, Julia knows only that her mother is "distracted, not there." And that a man "carrying a small black satchel" comes to the house and leaves her mother moaning in bed.

Once more, Rose leaves her now teenaged children behind as she returns to Nome. It is wartime and Lillian and Julia find jobs at the military base in Fairbanks. As suddenly as they came to Fairbanks, they are summoned back to Nome--no questions asked, no explanations given. Cappy's son is missing in action. Once again, Julia cannot understand the silence, the absence of grief displayed--"Isn't anybody sad? Isn't anybody upset?" (181) Rose's relationship with Cappy quietly ends.

As Julia finishes high school she fantasizes about leaving Nome, going to college, becoming a journalist--fantasies inspired by Rosalind Russell's role in the film, His Girl Friday, and by Sinclair Lewis's critique of small town life in the novel, Main Street. "I begin to discern, vaguely, tentatively, that somewhere there exists a world where the accepted language is the one that Sinclair Lewis speaks--a language of ideas and, even, of feelings." (212) Indeed, as the book jacket notes, the author graduated from Stanford and became a magazine editor; she lives in Manhattan.

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Return to Ithaca

Newborn, Barbara

Last Updated: Apr-16-1998
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

At the age of 21, shortly after moving to Ithaca, New York, to begin a new life with her fiance, the author experienced a stroke that left her aphasic and partially paralyzed. She returned home to Altoona, Pennsylvania, where she underwent months of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

This memoir takes us through the process of self-discovery by which Barbara Newborn learned first to understand and cope with her disabilities and then to overcome them. It recounts her depression and determination, her disappointment and exhilaration. Return to Ithaca ends about nine months after the stroke when the author had indeed returned to Ithaca to begin (once again) a new life.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In 1984 Handler was a moderately successful 23 year old New York City actor, when he developed acute myelogenous leukemia. Strongly supported by his girlfriend and family, Handler underwent induction and, later, consolidation chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital, where he also began his long experience (the "comedy of terrors" or, perhaps more appropriately, the "tragedy of errors") of a harsh, hostile medical environment populated by arrogant physicians, condescending nurses, and a host of unhelpful minor characters.

Handler carries us briskly through his first remission, the impact of his illness on his family and personal relationships, his experience with nonconventional healing (Simonton Cancer Center), his return to work on Broadway, his relapse, and the agony of a second round of induction chemotherapy at Sloan-Kettering.

Subsequently, he goes to Johns Hopkins Hospital to undergo the rigors of an autologous bone marrow transplant. At Hopkins he discovers to his surprise a medical setting far different from Sloan-Kettering: communicative, compassionate physicians and a patient-centered healing environment. Even the two hospitals' sperm banks reflect this radical difference in approach.

After surviving his transplant and a subsequent round of serious infections, Handler resumes his life. He realizes that most of the time nowadays he is not in touch with the sense of joy and gratitude for each moment that the illness taught him. Yet, these feelings exist below his consciousness; sometimes he steps through "a little doorway near the floor of my consciousness" and experiences his life in a simpler, more profound way.

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Road Song

Kusz, Natalie

Last Updated: Mar-08-1998
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a memoir, one that tells of a family’s move from California to the more rarefied life of the Alaskan wilderness. Living in a trailer and, later, a house they build, the family struggles with harsh winters and little money, maintaining their belief in the superiority of this way of life over what the parents had begun to experience as enervating in the mainland U.S.

At the age of seven, Natalie is savagely attacked by a neighbor’s sled dog. The attack leaves her with half of her face and numerous other serious wounds. In and out of consciousness as her mother and the neighbors await an ambulance, she remembers "the dogs, and their chains, and my own blood on the snow," (50) as well as the sensation of being moved on the stretcher and hearing one of the neighbor’s children say "Natalie’s dying."

Doctors told her parents she would not be likely to survive more than two days, and this memoir tells of her survival against the odds, spending years in and out of hospitals with numerous surgeries. Kusz weaves tales of her family’s history (her father was a Polish Russian) and the intense love that sustained them throughout her healing and arduous recovery and, later, her teenage pregnancy (and decision to keep the baby) and, finally, her mother’s early death and the progress of the family’s grief and recovery.

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The Horse and Buggy Doctor

Hertzler, Arthur

Last Updated: Feb-19-1998
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Dr. Hertzler leads the reader, topically and generally chronologically, through the nature of the practice of medicine in rural America from the 1880's through the 1930's. His early narratives are those of a child observing the ravages of epidemic diseases in the face of medical futility.

The remainder of the work, divided into subject headings, is devoted to anecdotes and observations on such things as horse and buggy home visits, kitchen surgery, the proprietary hospital and physician education. Having served not only as a rural practitioner, but as a professor of pathology at academic centers and a consulting surgeon, Hertzler draws on a wide experience over a period of time known for rapid advances in basic biological science which would, near the end of the narrator's life, open the way for technological medicine as we know it today.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This collection of vignettes follows the growth and development of one internist as he reflects on some of the critical experiences that shaped him as physician. The common thread of the work is the celebration of the relationship that can, and perhaps should, be built between the physician and his or her patient in the course of caring: this relationship is the sacred space of the title.

The author accomplishes his self-imposed task of describing this space by presenting situations in his practice life that illustrate the concept. The chronological structure of the collection enables the reader to study the maturation of the author as a self-reflective practitioner over the many decades of his professional life. Many of the stories are very funny; others are wrenching; all are gently told.

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Balsamroot

Blew, Mary Clearman

Last Updated: Sep-15-1997
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In Balsamroot, Mary Clearman Blew explores the life story of her beloved aunt, who has recently developed dementia. The memoir artfully interweaves the stories of the author's struggle to cope with her aunt's condition and find the best care for her; her aunt's past as revealed in newly discovered diaries; the author's reconciliation with her estranged daughter; her coming to terms with a broken love relationship from the past (spurred on by her discovery of a thwarted love in her aunt's past).

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In 1981 the author, a well-known 75 year old Swedish poet, suffered a heart attack and lay comatose for two months. He then began a prolonged period during which he gradually recovered all of his faculties. In the early stage of his recovery, Lundkvist experienced a series of strange and intense "waking dreams," which he describes in this memoir. Many were dreams of journeys to real or fantastic places: for example, a trip to a railroad station in Chicago where physicians surgically transformed white people into black people, or a visit to a strange planet where cows produced blue milk. Lundkvist's memories of these dreams are embedded in a series of imaginative meditations on aging, human nature, the meaning of life, and the inexorable passage of time.

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Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

As she turns 39, Alden begins a four-year quest to have a child. Despite her need and desire, she wonders whether having one will keep her from her work, writing. She and her husband Jeff go from not-really-trying, through temperature charts, to a series of painful and expensive procedures, all to no avail.

The memoir describes not only Alden's search for a child but for herself as well. Her relationship with her mother, her immersion in the counterculture ("in a middle-class way"), the importance of writing, her attempts to keep her own life under control, and her satisfying marriage are important elements in the memoir.

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Hospital Time

Hoffman, Amy

Last Updated: Apr-03-1997
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The memoir is divided into roughly two halves: before Mike's death and after Mike's death. The narrator is one of the dying man's circle of gay and lesbian friends, and becomes, for unclear reason's, his most involved caregiver. She goes to his apartment on summons at any hour, flies to Memphis when Michael is hospitalized after collapsing, loans him money, and endures relentless psychological abuse as his cognitive powers fade.

In the second half of the book, the writer reflects. Her anger toward Mike's disease, AIDS, and Mike himself does not seem tempered by the passage of time. She is still struggling at the end of the tale, more than two years after Mike's death.

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