Autobiography of a Face

Autobiography of a Face

by Lucy Grealy


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A New York Times Notable Book

“This is a young woman’s first book, the story of her own life, and both book and life are unforgettable.” —New York Times

“Engaging and engrossing, a story of grace as well as cruelty, and a demonstration of [Grealy's] own wit and style and class."—Washington Post Book World

This powerful memoir is about the premium we put on beauty and on a woman's face in particular. It took Lucy Grealy twenty years of living with a distorted self-image and more than thirty reconstructive procedures before she could come to terms with her appearance after childhood cancer and surgery that left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl, she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the paralyzing fear of never being loved.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544837393
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 94,235
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

LUCY GREALY (1963–2002) was an award-winning poet and a memoirist. In addition to Autobiography of a Face, she was the author of the essay collection As Seen on TV: Provocations.

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Autobiography of a Face 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 77 reviews.
Schmutz93 More than 1 year ago
Autobiography of a face is the autobiography of Lucy Grealy, a very talented writer. It tells of her first struggles as a child, all the way to after her college days. It takes you in depth into the hospital world as if you were her, being treated and operated on. She tells of going through school with about a third of her jaw line missing because of cancer. If you thought the kids in your neighborhood were cruel, then prepare yourself for a forceful revelation that you really didn't have it so bad. This book will chew you up and spit you out, but at the end of your journey through Lucy's life, you will somehow feel enlightened and even thankful for everything you have, ad also the things that you don't. So, stop feeling sorry for yourself and pickup this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of the best non-fiction book I ever read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book several years ago, and Lucy's story stayed with me. . She is an exceptional writer, and her story is one you simply must read.  On a scale from 1 to 10, her book is a 10.  Buy it, read it, share it when you're done.  You'll be glad you did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is soo sad But its a real eye opener
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
read this book for school and fell in love with it, i was so in touch with the character and i found myself brought to tears at some parts but love the ending and everything else about the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My grandmother had cancer and she found out that it did not spread the day i was born so it was emotional for me.
karstelincoln on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful writing, but artful I think in what she leaves out. Having previously read Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, I think the reality lies somewhere between the two. Horrible journey for anyone, though she's resourceful enough to find silver linings throughout. The sparse detail lends an emeciated feel to the lack of family support and enouragement. Would recommend to anyone wanting a different kind of autobiography, especially women's perspective.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lucy Grealy lived a life few of us can imagine. Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at age nine, she spent the next five years of her life undergoing surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. When the treatments were over, she had lost a third of her jaw and the opportunity to look like a normal person. Grealy conveys this experience with precision and clarity, but what really shines about the book is how easily we can empathize with a life so different from our own. Isolation, longing for love, and desperation for approval are human emotions that we can all identify with, even if Grealy experienced them at a far greater magnitude than we have known. At times, I longed to shake her, to beg her to talk to someone about her problems, and above all, to recognize that she is and always was a beautiful woman -- not just intellectually, but physically as well. The photographs I have seen of her are absolutely magnetic. Yet, Grealy began cancer treatment in a decade where little psychological support was offered to survivors. Who can fault a nine-year-old girl for getting lost in her head in those circumstances? And who can help but be amazed by the story she grew up to write? She is unflinchingly honest about herself and the people around her, so she portrays them all as complex human beings with strengths and flaws. Her observations about suffering and beauty are vivid, complicated, and true, and I felt a genuine sense of loss when I discovered she died of a drug overdose ten years after the book's completion.
ilovebooksdlk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lucy Grealy's memoir chronicles her experience surviving a childhood cancer that forced the removal of a large part of her jaw leaving her face severely disfigured. She helps us understand the experience of being "grotesquely" different, as both a child and an adult. In adulthood, she attends the writing program at Sarah Lawrence where she meets Ann Patchett (and the two become dear friends, a friendship that becomes the centerpoint of Patchett's stunning memoir, Truth and Beauty.)Lucy goes on to attend the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the publication of this book brings her national writing acclaim. But it never solves the problem of the intense aloneness she feels in the world, wondering if anyone will ever truly love her, a hunger she can't manage to feed.Honest and horrifying in parts. A brilliant memoir.
kcslade on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pretty good account of the life of a disfigured girl (from disease).
sgerbic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewed October 1998 Lucy contracted cancer of the jaw at 9 years old, to remove the cancer doctors took one-half of her jaw. She experienced treatments for 2 1/2 years, the pain she felt is very vividly expressed. Lucy shares with us her loneliness and pain at times so real I found myself crying for her. This autobiography is about beauty, those who have it don't really know it. She searches for it and finally finds it in her love of horses and poetry. Hospitals give her comfort only there she is treated special and not teased or taunted. All in all a truly honest book, and a quick read. 37-1998
goldiebear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was extremely well written and I found it quite beautiful, even though the content was heartbreaking. I know it's easy for me to say, but why not just stop having all the operations and just move on? I know she was young and I don't know what happened after she wrote this book. (I intend to read Truth and Beauty next.. and that might give more insight). It seems that she was finally able to accept herself for everything she was, which made me feel good. I can't even imagine going through everything she did at such a young age. But above all, this book kept me interested and was very well written.
ChocolateMilkMaid on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Please read this completely disarming book about a child with cancer, who grows up to become a marvelous poet and author, so gifted and raw. Sure, her story ends sadly later, but that doesn't make this book any less true. Maybe the best autobiography I've ever read.
Berly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am having trouble writing my review for [Autobiography of a Face], by [[Lucy Grealy]], because I am so afraid I will not do it justice. This is a beautiful, brave and candid memoir of Lucy¿s battle with cancer and subsequent multiple surgeries. It is not maudlin, but witty and insightful. I was afraid to read it, because I, too, grew up with lots of medical issues and I didn¿t want to plumb those angry, fearful memories again. Did it touch upon those raw nerves? Yes, but just a touch. I found myself focused more intently on the beauty of her writing, and that would have made Grealy so happy. In the afterward, Lucy¿s friend [[Ann Patchett]] explains that during her book readings, Lucy ¿was not there as a role model for overcoming obstacles. She was a serious writer, and she wanted her book to be judged for its literary merit and not its heartbreaking content.¿ Done! I loved it. Her voice is honest and lyric and her book is so much more than a medical diary. She delves inside the pain of being different, the secret desire to be perfect, and the ways in which our parents and circumstances shape (sometimes unwittingly) who we become. One more point before I go. [[Patchett]] also wrote a book, entitled [Truth and Beauty] in which she shares Lucy¿s life from her point of view as a friend in college and graduate school. Several people have said that they found it strange that Patchett is not mentioned in Grealy¿s book. Not so much. Autobiography of a Face is centered far more on Lucy¿s childhood and her family and Patchett entered the picture much later. I will say that I far prefer the character of Grealy in her own book, rather than the needy, sex-driven girl portrayed in Patchett¿s book. An interesting contrast none-the-less.
kkkoob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautifully written memoir filled with good writing and pyschological hauntings.
pictou on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this after reading [book: Truth and Beauty] by Ann Patchett. These two books should be read as a pair.
litelady-ajh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, but sad & depressing.
titania86 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Autobiography of a Face is Lucy Grealy's honest and unflinching look at her own life. It all starts when her jaw collides with a fourth grade classmate. Then she is diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer with only a 5% survival rate, in her jaw. Over time, she goes through not only grueling chemotherapy, but also the removal of part of her jaw (causing the disfiguration of her face) and the countless reconstructive surgeries that follow. Lucy's story is both inspirational and real. I admire how she admits inconsistencies in her memory, her innermost thoughts, and her insecurities. I liked that she didn't sugarcoat things. She talked about the things she thought as a child, whether they made sense or not, like did her wanting to feel special make her sick or was she too ugly to be loved? She illustrates how painful and time consuming the treatment for cancer is. The side effects for chemotherapy that she had were vomiting, weight loss, radiation burns, loss of appetite, pain, hair loss, and damaged teeth. This doesn't even include the initial removal of part of her jaw (and her disfigured face). To go through this as an adult is unimaginable to me, let alone as a child. Throughout her life, Lucy experiences many of the same things that most people do, like her awkward relationship with her parents, the painful teasing and tormenting from schoolyard bullies, envy of normal children, fear of death, and her insecurities about her looks. The media's perception of the nature of beauty is so different from real people, that I can understand why the body image issues that typically plague young girls would be so much worse for Lucy. Growing up is hard enough to do without the extra complications she had to go through. Just a side note: I first heard of this book because Chuck Palahniuk named it as an inspiration behind Invisible Monsters. These two books are very different from each other, but are excellent in their own right.
knitwit2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lucy Grealy's memoir was in a word, amazing. She chronicles her battle with cancer and subsequent reconstructive surgeries with candor and humility. Starting with diagnosis at age 9 and continuing through her twenties she tells the story so that you think your hearing it directly from her 12 year old self, her 15 year old self and so on. She has the reader's sympathy, but not pity, quite a feat in a memior. I've never read anything quite like it, shewas a talent unmatched.
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At age 9 Lucy was diagnosed with a cancer of the jaw. In this nonfiction memoir she chronicles her 5-year battle with the cancer and then the years that followed, during which she has dozens of reconstructive surgeries. More than the disease though, it's about Grealy's battle with learning to accept herself and feel comfortable in her own skin. It's about the universal struggle of feeling ugly. Grealy's story is a tragic one, but it's also beautiful. "Beauty, as defined by society at large, seemed to be only about who was best at looking like everyone else."If you find a copy to read, male sure it includes the afterward by author Ann Patchett that was added in 2003. Patchett was one of Grealy's best friends and later wrote the book "Truth and Beauty" about their friendship. I think she sums up Grealy's book perfectly with this... "In the right hands, a memoir is the flecks of gold panned out of a great, muddy river. A memoir is those flecks melted down into a shapeable liquid that can be molded and hammered into a single, bright band to be worn on a finger, something you could say, "Oh this, this is my life." Everyone has a muddy river, but very few have the vision, patience and talent to turn it into something beautiful."
maverickmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The late author Lucy Grealy shares the story of her childhood battle with a rare cancer that cost her the lower right side of her face. She won the battle with the cancer, but was left to deal with the physical and psychological effects of facial disfigurement. Her story is *not* a "triumph of the human spirit" tale, but rather a story of Grealy's journey through hopes and disappointments, self-acceptance and self-abnegation. The culmination of the story is simply the point at which she wrote the book; the reader is left with the sense that this is where Grealy is *now,* that the twists and turns of her journey continue -- and if you know anything about Grealy's life after 1994, you know that that is true. Grealy's writing is clear, flowing, honest, wry, and full of effective imagery.
msjoanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a wonderfully well-written account of Grealy's experience of childhood cancer. The book was brutally honest -- the account of the reactions and feelings of the author's parents and the author herself rarely painted a flattering picture, but did provide much insight into the author's experience. I'm looking forward to following this up with Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett.
alexlane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book truly allows you to understand what it is like to have cancer, or at least, how someone with cancer might feel, phsycially as well as emotionally. The writing is exquisite. This is the most honest autobiography I have ever read. Everyone should have this book in their library.
mikitchenlady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was somewhat disappointed by this book after reading Ann Patchett's "Truth and Beauty" which was really amazing. My edition included Ann's comments at the end, in which she emphasized that Lucy wanted her book to be evaluated more for its writing skill than the story. I was moved by the story, and garnered a greater understanding of Lucy Grealy by the end of the book (she seemed an odd, unfocused, unmotivated, quirky, self-centered type of friend in Ann's book, one that I could not imagine being friends with). In this volume, I understood why she became the person that she did. In terms of its writing quality, I felt there were too many realizations that were incongruent with a child's understanding -- too many ah-ha moments that a child would never have, no matter the circumstances. Perhaps I'm being too hard, that it is difficult to write a memoir without infusing one's adults thoughts into the details. She does a great job with showing our cultural emphasis on beauty, and how despite the fact that she survived this cancer (and others were less fortunate and less obviously whole), she would never find her own beauty, nor believe that others could see it in her.I would recommend this book to people who read Ann Patchett's book, as well as to those who need or want to better understand childhood cancer more.
Cate88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Captivating story about courage in the face of disfigurement. Well written, and convincing non-fiction.