Emily Rapp was born with a congenital defect that required, at the age of four, that her left foot be amputated. By the time she was eight she'd had dozens of operations, had lost most of her leg, from just above the knee, and had become the smiling, indefatigable "poster child" for the March of Dimes. For years she made appearances at church suppers and rodeos, giving pep talks about how normal and happy she was. All the while she was learning to live with what she later described as "my grievous, irrevocable flaw," and the paradox that being extraordinary was the only way to be ordinary. Praise for Poster Child: "Rapp's precise and forthright descriptions of her exhausting physical ordeals and complex psychic wounds are simultaneously harrowing and fascinating, and they foster a strong bond between writer and reader...Rapp approaches the memoir as a supple, revelatory, involving and generous genre....She offers a fresh perspective on our obsession with physical perfection, especially the crushing expectations for women, and she writes delicately about the fears that disability engenders regarding intimacy and sex. Rapp's insider's view of the history of prostheses deepens our empathy and admiration for those who depend on artificial limbs, a growing population, once again, in yet another time of war and horrific injuries. Memoir, the conduit from the personal to the universal, is the surest way into the kind of significant psychological, sociological and spiritual truth Rapp is engaged in articulating. And there isn't one false note here. Not one inauthentic moment. No cheap manipulation. No self-importance...Her cauterizing specificity is compelling, her candor incandescent and her intelligence, courage and spiritual diligence stupendous."Donna Seaman, Los Angeles Times "You can't put down this excellent memoir ...Poster Child beautifully illustrates every human being's sometimes overt, sometimes co
Rapp, a writing professor at Antioch University, has crafted a meditative, nuanced account of her life, which began with a grim prognosis after she was born in 1974 with a shortened leg. At first, her handicap is filtered through the prismatic fantasy of girlhood. "I felt singled out and special," she reflects, spinning stories of dragon attacks to enthralled schoolmates in Nebraska and Wyoming. In a childhood marked by surgeries and prosthetic fittings, she becomes a bubbly poster child for the local March of Dimes. As the daughter of a pastor and fiercely optimistic parents, Rapp prays earnestly for a normal leg even as she feverishly overcompensates for the artificial limb through witty verve and rambunctious horseplay. But in adolescence, she struggles with her image in the eyes of others. Her leg "may have been couture," she jokes, "but it certainly wasn't fashionable." Rapp's unrelenting push toward normalcy even takes her to Korea as a Fulbright scholar, where she must fend for herself even with a few hydraulic malfunctions. But she's too sharp and self-aware to either laugh her travails away or admit total defeat. Though she demonstrates daunting reserves of pluck, she isn't afraid to hold the sugarcoating and confront the irresolvable dilemmas. Her piercing metaphors and sudden, unexpected jabs of humor enhance the candid appeal of this "underdog" tale. (Jan.)
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Bloomsbury Publishing USA
December 25, 2007
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