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How storytelling can aid in healing

Memoirs of illness, crisis,
disability, differentness, and survival
(a reading list)

Partially sighted readers who want to listen to a title in audio should contact the National Library Service (NLS), which is part of the Library of Congress, or their state Library for the Blind.
"Frank identifies three basic narratives of illness....Restitution narratives anticipate getting well again and give prominence to the technology of cure. In chaos narratives, illness seems to stretch on forever, with no respite or redeeming insights. Quest narratives are about finding that insight as illness is transformed into a means for the ill person to become someone new."~from Amazon review of The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics by Arthur W. Frank.

Three Sharply Observed Books Showcase the Enduring Appeal of Memoirs About Dealing With Disease (Dwight Garner, NY Times, 8-2-21) Nietzsche’s maxim, that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, has a corollary in the book world: What doesn’t kill you will be the topic of your memoir....poet John Berryman restated Nietzsche, saying: “The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business.”...The cultural appetite for stories of illness, disease, disorder and grave old age is bottomless....As a genre, disease and illness memoirs are permanently interesting if honest and sharply observed. The writer is dealt a joker from the pack. It’s an excuse to open a life for examination, now with a flame-burst of urgency." A thoughtful review of three memoirs.
---Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020 by Fred D'Aguiar
---I Live a Life Like Yours: A Memoir by Jan Grue (how the disabled are treated)
---Blind Man's Bluff: A Memoir by James Tate Hill. A tale of losing his sight and hiding that from the world.

Let me know of books missing from this list:

• Adams, Rachel. Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery ""We learn from Adams what it means to have a son very different from most others in mind and body, whose future is uncertain, but whose life is infused with love and so worth living."—Jerome Groopman
• Alden, Paulette Bates. Crossing the Moon: A Journey Through Infertility.
• Anderson, Karen. The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness. Anderson's memoir of leaving the life of a Roman Catholic nun in 1969 to join the secular world, "a stunningly poignant account about the nature of spiritual growth" (complicated by years suffering from undiagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy, which she does not dwell on).
• Angelou, Maya. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (childhood memories of growing up black when prejudice was intense)
• Anner, Zach. If at Birth You Don't Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and Destiny A "frank and devilishly funny" book about an award-winning comedian who "recounts his journey from being what he calls a “crappy baby” [with cerebral palsy. "the sexiest of the palsies," to] the host of his own travel show and an improbable workout guru. If there was ever a book that showed the importance of laughing at yourself, this is probably it.”~Mental Floss
• Ansay, A. Manette. Limbo: A Memoir (an undiagnosed muscle disorder cuts short her career as a concert pianist)
• Ascher, Barbara Lazear. Landscape Without Gravity (about her brother's death from AIDS).
• Bailey, Elisabeth Tova.The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. Stricken with a mysterious virus, Bailey becomes fascinated with the life of a small snail imported on a gift plant.
• Barber, Charles. Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors. Haunted by mental illness (his own and that of a friend who kills himself), Barber becomes a psychiatrist, treating the mentally ill at Bellevue. Booklist: "a compelling and compassionate portrait of the struggle for peace and clarity of mind."
• Barron, Judy and Sean. There’s a Boy in Here (life with autism, from both mother’s and son’s viewpoint)
• Bauby, Jean-Dominique. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death (immobilized by a stroke, the narrator discovers the life of the unfettered imagination). Also a major movie.
• Beauvoir, Simone de. A Very Easy Death (about the death of her mother)
• Benitez, Sandra. Bag Lady: A Memoir (the story of how Benitez coped with the debilitating disease of ulcerative colitis before and after deciding to have an ileostomy and commit to wearing a plastic bag on her stomach -- of interest also for those with Crohn's disease or colon cancer.
• Behrman, Andy. Electroboy: A Memoir "Andy Behrman was Superman. He slept three hours a day. He learned new languages in a week. He was a dealer, a hustler and an art forger who made millions. He flew from Geneva to Anguilla then back again to balance out the hot and cold. He gave strangers spontaneous gifts of thousands of dollars from the cash he kept in a refrigerator. Then he was arrested for art forgery, went to prison and soon after that found out he was mad. Following intensive bouts of electric shock therapy, he was cured. No longer Superman, but Electroboy. This is his story." (This book got mixed reviews AS a book, but it does tell the story of bipolar disorder treated successfully with electroshock and the right medication.)
• Berger, Suzanne. The Horizontal Woman: The Story of a Body in Exile. As she bent to pick up her toddler, Berger suffered a freak back injury that left her unable to sit or stand for more than five minutes. For six years she experienced confinement and chronic pain, anguish, isolation, and more.
• Bernstein,Jane. Loving Rachel (about life with a blind daughter)
• Black, Kathryn. In the Shadow of Polio: A Personal and Social History (a memoir of Black's childhood experience of a mother in an iron lung, wrapped in the larger story of the search for a cure)
• Bouton, Katherine. Shouting Won't Help: Why I--and 50 Million Other Americans--Can't Hear You (Bouton tells her story about adult onset of profound deafness, and profiles others with similar losses -- an opera singer, a pastry chef, a psychoanalyst, and, as Jerome Groopman writes, "offers a wealth of information and insight about a frustrating and isolating condition."
• Bowman, Grace. Thin
• Bragg, Bernard. Lessons in Laughter: The Autobiography of a Deaf Actor
• Brennan, Karen. Being with Rachel: A Personal Story of Memory and Survival. How she coped with the severe brain injury of her 21-year-old daughter (in a motorcycle accident), and the long road to reconstructing her life and memory.
• Breslin, Jimmy. I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me (on surviving a brain aneurysm).
• Brodkey, Harold. This Wild Darkness: The Story of My Death (the story of his confrontation with AIDS)
• Brookes, Tim. Catching My Breath: An Asthmatic Explores His Illness
• Brown, Christy. My Left Foot by Christy Brown. The story of an Irish boy born in Dublin in 1932, who, after a difficult birth, was developmentally disabled, probably with cerebral palsy--spastic, and pronounced an imbecile by doctors. His mother refused to believe he was imbecile and taught him to read and write (and paint with his toes). Made into a movie featuring Daniel Day Lewis. See also Christy Brown: The Life that Inspired My Left Foot by Georgina Louise Hambleton.
• Brownsworth, Victoria A. and Susan Raffo, eds. Restricted Access: Lesbians on Disability . Contributors to this anthology write about the reality of being a "member of a doubly marginalized group in a phobic society," and often homophobic doctors--and write about a range of disabilities (including those from birth defects, AIDS, deafness, chronic fatigue syndrome, mental illness, cerebral palsy).
• Broyard, Anatole. Intoxicated by My Illness (critical illness, in his case from cancer, as a spiritual journey)
• Brunt, Carol Rifka. Tell the Wolves I'm Home. “Brunt's debut novel is both a painful reminder of the ill-informed responses to a once little-known disease and a delightful romp through an earlier decade. The relationship issues with parents and siblings should appeal to YA audiences, but adult readers will enjoy the suspenseful plot and quirky characters”—Library Journal
• Burroughs, Augusten. Running with Scissors: A Memoir (the amusing, bizarre story of the author's life from 13 to 16, when his mentally ill mother has him move in with her eccentric psychiatrist) and A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father (the more sober account of his childhood attempts to elicit warmth from his cruel and unfeeling, alcoholic father). The broad details of his story are at least partly corroborated in his brother's memoir, Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's.
• Butler, Katy. Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death "Exquisitely present[s] her personal story and a critical examination of the medical profession’s handling of end-of-life care. --Publishers Weekly.
• Cahalan, Susannah. Brain on Fire. Journalist Cahalan describes "how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity after an unknown pathogen invaded her body and caused an autoimmune reaction that jump-started brain inflammation, paranoia, and seizures....A compelling health story." ~Booklist. A medical mystery involving a pathogen that jump-started brain inflammation, paranoia, and seizures.
• Callahan, John. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot "Without self-pity or self-righteousness, this liberating book tells us how a quadriplegic with a healthy libido has sex, what it's like to live in the exitless maze of the welfare system, where a cartoonist finds his comedy, and how a man with no reason to believe in anything discovers his own brand of faith."
• Carr, David. The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of his Life--His Own . A New York Times reporter spends three years revisiting his harrowing past as a drug addict and and fact-finding for a "reported memoir," because, as he says, "You remember the story you can live with, not the one that happened."
• Casey, Nell, ed. Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression
• Casey, Nell, ed. An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family (and some writers on being cared for). A wonderful book, highly recommended for caregivers.
• Chase, Truddi. When Rabbit Howls (introduction by Robert A. Phillips). Truddi Chase (a pseudonym) began therapy when she was building a successful career, marriage, and family--seeking explanations for her extreme anxiety, mood swings, and periodic blackouts. Subjected to violent, ritualized sexual abuse by her stepfather from the age of two, she retreated inside herself and developed symptoms of multiple personality disorder. Told from her viewpoint, this is Trudy's story of her journey with her therapist to discover the world inside herself that she didn't know existed.
• Chorost, Michael Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. Severely hearing-impaired since birth, Chorost abruptly went totally deaf in 2001. Fascinating account of the human side of cochlear implants.
• Cohen, Richard M. Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness, a Reluctant Memoir (living with multiple sclerosis and later colon cancer, and how his illness affected his wife, Meredith Vieira, and their three children)
• Colas, Emily. Just Checking (some readers wish for more structured insight into obsessive-compulsive complex, but some value Colas's vignettes showing "how 'logical' OCD-caused rituals can seem to those who suffer from it and how you become trapped inside your own head with no reference to reality")
• Cousins, Norman. Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient (a classic take on how attitude, and especially laughter, affects health outcomes)
• Crosby, Christina. A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain. "n her surgically incisive descriptions of how it feels to live in her ravaged body and to redefine herself within extreme new limits, Crosby resists both self-pity and the too-easy narrative of hardship overcome. Instead, she asks readers to recognize how messy, precarious, and queer, in every sense of the word, life in a body can be."~ Michael M. Weinstein, A Professor’s Memoir of Life Inside a Ravaged Body (New Yorker, 4-11-16)
• DasGupta, Sayantani and Marsha Hurst, eds. Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write Their Bodies
• DeBaggio, Thomas. Losing My Mind: An Intimate Look at Life with Alzheimer’s (the early memories and the daily struggle of a man coming to terms with a progressively debilitating illness)
• De Rossi, Portia. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain (the story of a Hollywood actress's her long battle to overcome anorexia and bulimia, a "memoir of life in the spotlight and closet, her struggles to conceal her homosexuality and eating disorder, coping with burgeoning fame, and meeting--and marrying--Ellen DeGeneres."
• DeVita, Elizabeth. The Empty Room: Surviving the loss of a brother or sister at any age (partly a memoir of surviving the loss of her brother Teddy to aplastic anemia)
• Dew, Robert Forman. The Family Heart: A Memoir of When Our Son Came Out
• DiDonato, Tiffanie.. Dwarf: A Memoir. Tiffanie DiDonato was born with limbs were so short that she was not able to reach her own ears. A memoir of grit and transformation for anyone who has been told something was impossible and then went on to do it anyway.
• Doty, Mark. Heaven's Coast. A powerful memoir of losing his lover to AIDS--a poet's luminous account of love and loss.
• Draper, Nancy A. A Burden of Silence: My Mother's Battle with AIDS
• Dubus, Andre. Meditations from a Movable Chair and the earlier collection of essays Broken Vessels (both written after a 1986 highway accident left him largely confined to a wheelchair, and only some essays deal with his response to the accident and his view of life from a wheelchair)
• Esther, Eliaabeth. Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future
• Estess, Jenifer. Tales from the Bed: A Memoir. (Estess and her sisters founded Project A.L.S. after she contracted the fatal neuromuscular disease.)
• Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. This fascinating book explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Sherwin Nuland: "There are no villains in Fadiman's tale, just as there are no heroes. People are presented as she saw them, in their humility and their frailty--and their nobility."
• Farrell, Richard. What's Left of Us. A memoir of extreme heroin addiction and redemption: "a rollercoaster ride of ugliness and beauty."
• Fechter, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home. "“Pairing food with the nightmare of surviving a brain aneurysm shouldn't work — but under Jessica Fechtor's wise and wonderful narration, the pairing not only works, it shines.” ~Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire. See review (Huff Post).
• Finger, Anne. Past Due: A Story of Disability, Pregnancy, and Birth
• Fishman, Steve. A Bomb in the Brain: A Heroic Tale of Science, Surgery, and Survival (about surviving an aneurysm).
• Fishman, Steve (though not a memoir). A magazine story and not a memoir. How One Man’s Face Became Another Man’s Face (New York Magazine, 11-15-15) The story of a human transplant, on a man whose face had been shot off. It was the first surgery to replace, in addition to the face, the jaws, teeth, and tongue. With pre-surgery photo and post-surgery video of Patrick Hardison.
• Flyer, Karen. Loss and Found: A Memoir (a memoir of her tumultuous life as a survivor of parental suicide, substance and sexual abuse, a life-threatening eating disorder, and low self-esteem)
• Frank, Arthur W. At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness (explores what illness can teach us about life, drawing on his experience having a heart attack and cancer)
• Franzen, Jonathon, My Father's Brain (New Yorker story about his father and Alzheimer's disease, 9-10-01)
• Fries, Kenny, Body, Remember (born with incompletely formed legs, a congenital birth defect, Fries explores what it's like to be different)
• Funderburg, Lise. Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home (a compelling and beautifully written memoir by a grown daughter—a white-looking mixed-race girl raised in an integrated Philadelphia neighborhood—who gets to know her dying father in a string of pilgrimages to his boyhood hometown in rural Georgia)
• Galli, Richard. Rescuing Jeffrey (an account of the gut-wrenching decisions Jeffrey’s parents face in the ten days after an accident leaves him paralyzed from the neck down)
• Gilbert, Sandra. Wrongful Death: A Medical Tragedy (about the death of her husband after entering the hospital for routine prostate surgery)
• Gordon, Barbara. I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can (on addiction to prescription drugs)
• Gordon, Mary. Circling My Mother (Gordon's memoir of her Irish Catholic mother, deformed by polio, eventually suffering dementia—and of their complex mother-daughter relationship)
• Grandin, Temple. Thinking in Pictures (an adult with autism explains how it feels to her, and how she works as an expert in her field). Also of interest Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
• Grealy, Lucy. Autobiography of a Face (about growing up with Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer that severely disfigured her face)
• Greenberg, Michael. Hurry Down Sunshine (memoir of his daughter's first manic episode, at 15, and how her bipolar disorder affects the family)
• Greene, Valerie. Conquering Stroke: How I Fought My Way Back and How You Can Too
• Gregory, Julie. Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood. Munchausen by proxy (MBP) is an often undetected and dangerous form of child abuse, in which the caregiver (usually the mother) invents or induces symptoms in her child because she craves the attention of medical professionals. Gregory writes about surviving constant physical abuse hoping to please mommy, then learnng of MBP in college, confronting the lie foisted on her all her life, and escaping her mother's madness.
• Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (a work of fiction, not memoir, but it conveys insights from author's work with autistic children)
• Hall, Donald. The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon. A portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months.
• Hammer, Signe. By Her Own Hand: Memoirs of a Suicide's Daughter
• Hanagarne, Josh. The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family. See writeups about the book: 'World's Strongest Librarian' strengthens writing voice in new memoir (Ben Fulton, Salt Lake City Tribune, 5-8-13 -- Josh Hanagarne finds refuge from Tourette's in reading, heavy lifting and now writing) and this Boston Globe review (Jesse Singal 5-21-13)
• Handler, Evan. Time on Fire: My Comedy of Terrors (recounting with grim humor his battle with leukemia and his hellish journey through the land of the sick)
• Haskell, Molly.My Brother My Sister: Story of a Transformation. On a visit to New York, the brother of well-known film critic Molly Haskell dropped a bombshell: Nearing age sixty, and married, he had decided to become a woman.
• Havemann, Joe. A Life Shaken:My Encounter with Parkinson's Disease
• Higashida, Naoki . The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. Read online David Mitchell's introduction, A Peek Inside My Son's Head, by the author of Cloud Atlas on why he translated a book by a 13-year-old Japanese boy with autism. "Reading it felt as if, for the first time, our own son was talking to us about what was happening inside his head, through Naoki’s words," writes Mitchell.
• Hill, Susan. Family (about the death of a premature child)
• Hillenbrand, Laura. A Sudden Illness—How My Life Changed (from The New Yorker--The impact of chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, on the author of the bestselling book, Seabiscuit)
• Hockenberry, John. Moving Violations: Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence
• Hoffman, Richard. Half the House (about child abuse)
• Hofmann, Regan. I Have Something to Tell You: A Memoir (a frank and compelling account of life with HIV from one of its least likely targets--a straight woman, who has fought the stigma associated with the disease)
• Hoge, Robert. Ugly. Read NPR interview with Mr. Hoge (9-14-16)
• Holzemer, Liz. Curveball: When Life Throws You a Brain Tumor (in her case, a baseball-sized meningioma--and remember, a brain tumor is different from brain cancer)
• Hood, Ann. Do Not Go Gentle: The Search for Miracles in a Cynical Time (her search for a miraculous cure for her father's inoperable lung cancer)
• Hornbacher, Marya. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia and Madness: A Bipolar Life and Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction, and the 12 Steps "The difference between now and the years when I lived in chaos is that I now have the knowledge, the tools, and the support to handle any kind of challenge, any kind of change."
• Hough, Lauren. Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing: Essays "A memoir in essays about so many things—growing up in an abusive cult, coming of age as a lesbian in the military, forced out by homophobia, living on the margins as a working class woman and what it’s like to grow into the person you are meant to be. Hough’s writing will break your heart." —Roxane Ga
• Hull, John. Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness (from sight problems at 13, gradually becoming blind)
• Israeloff, Roberta. In Confidence: Four Years of Therapy
• Jamison, Kay Redfield. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. A classic memoir about living with manic depression (including its positive aspects).
• Jennings, Michael Burch. They Cage the Animals at Night (the moving account of Burch's painful childhood experiencing abuse in orphanages and foster care, a stuffed animal ("Doggie") his chief source of comfort)
• Jezer, Marty. Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words. See Randy Holhut's obit for Jezer and Saying Goodbye to Marty Jezer (Joyce Marcel, Common Dreams)
• Johnson, Fenton. Geography of the Heart (about the death of a gay partner)
• Kalanithi, Paul. When Breath Becomes Air. Kalanithi's best-selling memoir (a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal lung cancer diagnosis attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?) argues that we need more doctors who assimilate the humanities and more artists who assimilate the science of medicine.
• Kamenentz, Rodger. Terra Infirma (a searing recollection of his mother's life and her death from cancer, his mother "yo-yoing between smothering affection and a fierce anger")
• Karr, Mary. The Liar's Club (about growing up with a mentally ill mother in a dysfunctional family)
• Kaysen,Susanna. Girl, Interrupted (a young girl's experiences with mental illness)
• Kennedy, Dan. Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes A week after her birth in 1992, Dan Kennedy's firstborn daughter was diagnosed with achondroplasia, the most common type of dwarfism. Reassured by doctors that Becky would have normal intelligence and a normal life span, Dan and his wife, Barbara, quickly adjusted to the reality of her condition. What wasn't so easy was grasping people's attitudes toward those with physical differences.
• Kettlewell, Caroline. Skin Game (a memoir of self-injury). Also recommended, for understanding self-mutiliation: A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain by Marilee Strong.
• Kincaid, Jamaica. My Brother (account of her younger brother's death from AIDS)
• Kingsley, Jason, and Mitchell Levitz. Count Us In: Growing Up with Down Syndrome
• Kleege, Georgina. Sight Unseen (marginally sighted and legally blind at 11 from macular degeneration, Kleege explores the meaning and implications of blindness and sightedness, reminding us that only a fraction of blind people see nothing at all)
• Knox, Jen. Musical Chairs (the coming-of-age story of a teenage runaway who flees her working-class home, becomes a stripper and a drinker -- subject to (well-described) anxiety attacks. Her grandmother has schizophrenia. A book about identity, class, family dynamics, isolation and the need for recognition, learning to cope with family--and about the dark world of the stripper (and the creepy men who try to "save" them).
• Kupfer, Fern. Before and After Zachariah (about a brain-damaged child)
• Kusz, Natalie. Road Song (growing up in Alaska, being mauled by a sled-dog, undergoing reconstructive surgery)
• Kuusisto, Stephen. Planet of the Blind (blind in one eye and nearly blind in the other, at his mother’s urging he feigns sightedness until coming to terms with his condition) and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening (in this sequel to Planet of the Blind, the author learns to live by ear)
• Lachenmeyer, Nathaniel. The Outsider: A Journey into My Father's Struggle with Madness (in which the author tries to reconstruct his father's downward spiral from a promising career as a sociology professor to his death as a schizophrenic vagrant, eluding police)
• Lang, Jim. Learning Sickness: A Year with Crohn's Disease
• Latus, Janine. If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation
• Lear, Martha Weinman. Heart-Sounds: The Story of Love and Loss (heart disease)
• Lemon, Boyd. Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages (an honest appraisal of why his three marriages failed helps Lemon, a highly paid lawyer, understand himself)
• Lewis, Mindy. Life Inside (diagnosed as schizophrenic at 15, kept in a psychiatric hospital till 18, recovering for decades, believing she was never schizophrenic)
• Lodge, David. Deaf Sentence: A Novel I include this serio-comic novel here because it is so good at conveying the way the world "sounds" to a deaf person, and because it is at least somewhat autobiographical. Read How hiding his deafness ruined novelist David Lodge's life (Moira Petty's story, MailOnline, 5-20-08, about how Lodge concealed his deafness). "On average, it takes a person suffering from sight problems up to three years to do something about it, while those experiencing deafness wait up to 15."
• Lord, Audre. The Cancer Journals (explores her breast cancer and mastectomy)
• Luczak, Raymond. Assembly Required: Notes From a Deaf Gay Life . A personal account of growing up a deaf, gay man, straddling the worlds of the hearing and deaf, coming out as gay after enrolling at Gallaudet University, a university for deaf people in Washington, DC--his worldview shaped by issues of identity, literacy, technology, and family.
• Lukas, Christopher. Blue Genes. A personal account of family experiences with depression and suicide. His mother and his brother committed suicide, and not until later in life did he learn the truth of his mother's death.
• Madoff, Roger. Leukemia for Chickens
• Mairs, Nancy. Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled (wheelchair-bound from advancing multiple sclerosis, she offers "a Baedeker for a country to which no one travels willingly"). Check out also Carnal Acts , and Remembering the Bone House
• Maurice, Catherine. Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family's Triumph Over Autism
• McDonnell, Jane Taylor. News from the Border: A Mother's Memoir of Her Autistic Son
• McKee, Steve. My Father’s Heart: A Son’s Journey (a tender memoir about suburban life in York, PA and Buffalo, NY, in the 1960s -- in every sense a “family history,” shedding light on heart disease, especially as inherited in families). Check out Steve McKee’s blog , too.
• McLean, David Stuart The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia (On October 17, 2002, David MacLean “woke up” on a train platform in India with no idea who he was or why he was there. No money. No passport. No identity. The story of McLean's terrifying bout with an episode of amnesia, set off by his allergic reaction to a drug many of us place our faith in.)
• McLean, Richard. Recovered, Not Cured: A Journey Through Schizophrenia (a brief, readable memoir by a gay Australian artist whose drawings vividly illustrate the story he tells about his life and mind with schizophrenia)
• Meissner, Tara. Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis (what its like to experience bipolar disorder)
• Monette, Paul. Borrowed Time, Becoming a Man, and Last Watch of the Night (a gay man battles AIDS)
• Mooney, Jonathon. The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal. After growing up with severe learning differences (dyslexia and ADHD), riding the short bus to special-education classes, not learning to read until he was 12, Mooney as an adult buys his own short bus and rides cross-country, looking for kids who are also "not normal." “What makes this journey so inspiring is Mooney’s transcendent humor; the self he has become does not turn away from old pain but can laugh at it, make fun of it, make it into something beautiful.”—Los Angeles Times
• Morris, Jan. Conundrum (the story of James Morris’s hidden life and how he decided to bring it into the open, as he resolved first on a hormone treatment and, second, on risky experimental surgery that would turn him into the woman he truly was--one of the first books to discuss transexuality with honesty and without prurience)
• Morrison, Blake. When Did You Last See Your Father?: A Son's Memoir of Love and Loss
• Nepo, Mark. Surviving Has Made Me Crazy. Poet and philosopher Mark Nepo was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma in 1987. His journey back to health awakened a new life. Also of possible interest: The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life and The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have
• Neugeboren, Jay. Imagining Robert: My Brother, Madness, and Survival: A Memoir (his brother's 30-year struggle with mental illness)
• Neugeboren, Jay. Open Heart: A Patient's Story of Life-Saving Medicine and Life-Giving Friendship
• Nyala, Hannah. Point Last Seen (fleeing an abusive marriage)
• Olson, Rosanne. This Is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Our Shapes and Sizes (photos of women with all kinds of bodies)
• Park, Clara Claiborne. The Siege:A Family's Journey Into the World of an Autistic Child The First Eight Years of an Autistic Child's Life (by the mother)
• Patchett, Ann. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship (about her strange relationship with Lucy Grealy)
• Pelzer, David J. A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive (a memoir based on one of the worst recorded cases of child abuse in California history, involving an abusive mother and an alcoholic father), the first in an inspirational trilogy, followed by The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family and A Man Named Dave: A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness
• Phillips, Jane. The Magic Daughter: A Memoir of Living with Multiple Personality Disorder
• Price, Reynolds. A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing (spine cancer makes him paraplegic, but liberates his imagination)
• Pruchno, Rachel. Surrounded by Madness: A Memoir of Mental Illness and Family Secrets
• Rapp, Emily. The Still Point of the Turning World. Everything changed when nine-month-old Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder. Rapp and her husband were forced to learn how 'to parent without a future."
• Ratushinskaya, Irina. Grey Is the Color of Hope (remembering four years in a Siberian labor camp)
• Rehm, Diane. Finding My Voice. In the final part of her memoir, the popular National Public Radio host writes about her battle with Spasmodic Dysphonia, a neurological disorder that causes muscle spasms--in her case, affecting her voice, which for a radio host has been a major problem. See also National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association
• Rhett, Kathryn, ed. Survival Stories: Memoirs of Crisis, a wonderful collection of short memoirs, and extracts from memoirs, with stories by Lucy Grealy, William Styron, Natalie Kusz, Lauren Slater, Christopher Davis, Nancy Mairs, Floyd Skloot, and many more. First rate.
• Rhodes-Courter, Ashley. Three Little Words: A Memoir Surviving nine years in the foster care system, and thriving. ""Quiet scenes cut deepest: the author's description of her only after-school visit to a friend's home lingers heartbreakingly in one's mind."~School Library Journal
• Rice, Ed. If They Could Only Hear Me: A collection of personal stories about ALS and the families that have been affected.
• Rice, Rebecca. A Time to Mourn: One Woman's Journey Through Widowhood
• Richmond, Lewis. Healing Lazarus: A Buddhist’s Journey from Near Death to New Life (viral encephalitis sends him into coma, and in recovery he experiences an acute neuropsychiatric complication from a therapeutic drug)
• Robinson, Jill. Past Forgetting: My Memory Lost and Found (a compelling account of severe memory loss as the result of a seizure, by a fine novelist who grew up in Hollywood , as daughter of writer and film executive Dore Schary)
• Robison, John Elder. Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s (the well-told story of life as a technologically gifted savant with high-functioning autism, with the added twist of an unusual perspective on his brother, who, as Augusten Burroughs, wrote Running with Scissors--apparently the nutty family psychiatrist was no exaggeration). Also by John Elder: Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers
• Roth, Philip. Patrimony (about a father's illness and about the father-son relationship)
• Rothenberg, Laura. Breathing for a Living (making the most of life with cystic fibrosis that takes her life at 22)
• Rousso, Harilyn. Don't Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back "Rousso is an activist, artist, educator, social worker, psychotherapist, writer, painter and advocate who has worked in the disability rights field. The book follows her journey from 'passing' - pretending that she didn't have cerebral palsy - to embracing her disability. In the late '70s, she began exploring her disability identity, and she writes with honesty and power." --Jewish Woman, Winter 2012
• Russo, Richard. Elsewhere A powerful memoir of Russo's enmeshed life with his difficult mother, and his discovery at the end of his mother's difficult life that she had lived with undiagnosed and untreated obsessive compulsive disorder.
• Saks, Elyn. The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (a fascinating memoir of the internal chaos and external unfairness that have made a life with schizophrenia so difficult for this professor of law and psychiatry, and of the talk therapy—indeed, psychoanalysis—she felt was as important as medication in helping her live a high-functioning life as a professor of law and psychiatry)
• Sarton, May. After the Stroke (the poet’s journal about recovering from a mild stroke when she is in her seventies)
• Scheff, David. Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction (chronicling a precocious teenager's spiral downward from abuse of mind- and mood-altering drugs to meth addiction)
• Scheff, Nic. Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines (the son's story, companion book to Beautiful Boy)
• Schreber, Daniel Paul. Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (memoirs of madness, as recalled a century ago during confinement In a German mental asylum)
• Sebold, Alice. Lucky. Brutally raped during her freshman year at Syracuse, she was told by a cop that she was lucky not to have been murdered and dismembered like an earlier student. This incident, plus her upbringing as the child of alcoholics, led her into depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and heroin addiction--and finally to recovery.
• Serotte, Brenda. The Fortune Teller's Kiss (memoir of contracting polio just before she turned eight, in 1954 -- a funny and heartbreaking account of growing up a Sephardic Jew--a Spanish Jewish family from Turkey-- among Ashkenazi neighbors in the Bronx)
• Shawn, Allen. Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life -- part memoir, part explanation, a beautifully written and fascinating account of Shawn's own anxiety and agoraphobia, and a fine summary of what is known about how we form and can learn to manage anxiety an­d phobias. Shawn is son of the New Yorker editor (who managed his fears by becoming boss and therefore controlling his environment) and brother of Wallace Shawn, the actor.­
• Shea, Gerald. Music Without Words: Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life After scarlet fever at age six damaged his cochlea, leaving him partly but severely deaf (unable to decipher consonants and certain vowels). How he compensated and adapted is fascinating, and as one reviewer says, his story is both an inspiration and a cautionary tale.
• Sheed, Wilfrid. In Love with Daylight: A Memoir of Recovery (about his experiences with childhood polio, depression, and an addictive personality from which he learned about the flaws in the medical system and the virtue of self-motivated recovery)
• Shields, David. The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (personal history melds with riveting biological info about the body at every stage of life — an "autobiography of the body")
• Shinn, Kelley. A Crippled Cassandra (Intima, Fall 2013). After barely surviving meningococcemia and sepsis at 16, her legs "slowly amputated just below the knees, [her] arms and thighs debrided and skin grafted, she defies doctors, gets pregnant, and has and raises two children. "I have travelled much of the globe, including war zones; I have been mountain climbing, kayaking, dancing, and I’ve breastfed an infant while operating a tractor. " Here, "Taking a Firm Hold on the Moment".
• Shreve, Susan Richards. Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven (an "indelible portrait of the psychic fallout of childhood illness").
• Shulman, Alix Kates. To Love What Is: A Marriage Transformed (love story of a husband and wife facing his traumatic brain injury and her transformation into caregiver)\
As My Face Disappeared So Did My Mother and Father (Howard Shulman, Narratively, 8-12-15) When a horrifying bacterial infection disfigured my newborn face, my parents abandoned me right there in my hospital bed. The only thing more painful than knowing they left me behind was finding them 38 years later.
• Sidransky, Ruth. In Silence: Growing Up Hearing in a Deaf World
• Sienkiewicz-Mercer, Ruth and Steven B. Kaplan. I Raise My Eyes to Say Yes. (Encephalitis at 5 weeks left Ruth, a healthy baby, paralyzed and unable to speak normally. Diagnosed an imbecile at 5 years, she was eventually institutionalized and severely mistreated at a school for the mentally and physically disabled until a staff turnover brought her help, including a method for communicating.)
• Skloot, Floyd. The Night-Side: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Illness Experience (an account of how this mysterious and life-altering illness stuck overnight, dramatically changing Skloot’s life, and how he dealt with it)
• Smith, Daniel. Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety. See NY Times review by Dwight Garner: Total Stranger, Unconditional Love
• Solomon, Andrew. Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
• Spencer-Wendel, Susan. Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy. A celebrated journalist makes the most of her final days after discovering she has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, better-known as Lou Gehrig's disease).
• Spradley, Thomas S. and James P. Deaf Like Me (parents of a child born deaf as the result of an epidemic of German measles, waste years avoiding sign language before learning how to communicate with their child)
• Steinem, Gloria. "Ruth's Song, Because She Could Not Sing It," in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (about childhood with a mentally ill mother)
• Styron, William. Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (about his struggle with crippling depression)
• Sutcliff, Rosemary. Blue Remembered Hills: A Recollection (the memoir of one of Britain’s best-loved historical novelists, crippled and badly disabled from the age of three by Still’s Disease, a form of juvenile arthritis)
• Swander, Mary. Out of This World: A Journey of Healing. About a severe allergic reaction, reflecting an environmental disease, and what Swander did to return to health. (Don't expect it to be a book about the Amish.)
• Tammet, Daniel. Born on a Blue Day (memoir of a life with synaesthesia and savant syndrome, a rare form of Asperger's syndrome)
• Taylor, Jill Bolte. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey (a story that provides hope for the brain-injured, not just those who have had a stroke, as this young brain scientist did)­
• Taylor, Nick. A Necessary End (about death of parents)
• Tracey, Patrick. Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family's Schizophrenia. Tracey travels to western Ireland to unravel the family legacy of mental illness: two of his sisters, an uncle, a grandmother and a grandfather have been "taken" in young adulthood by schizophrenia. Writes one reviewer: "What I most appreciated was the research into the genetic and environmental factors that have gone into making this horrible disease such a part of the Irish experience."
• Vincent, Eleanor. Swimming with Maya: A Mother's Story (how the daughter's fall from a horse ended in organ donations--transforming a mother's grief)
• Wakefield, Darcy. I Remember Running: The Year I Got Everything I Ever Wanted-and ALS (another moving memoir of living and dying with ALS--and about her "fast-forward" life, "in which she applies for disability, leaves her job, and plans her own funeral as well as meets and moves in with her true love, buys a house, and gives birth to her first child."
• Walker, Lou Ann. A Loss for Words: The Story of Deafness in a Family (what it was like growing up hearing as the oldest child of deaf parents)
• Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle (growing up in a decidedly eccentric, often homeless, family)
• Waxman, Robert and Linda. Losing Jonathan (losing a beloved child to drugs)
• Wexler, Alice. Mapping Fate: A Memoir of Family, Risk, and Genetic Research (on Huntington's Disease)
• Wiesel, Elie. Night (powerful account of surviving the nightmare world of the Nazi death camps)
• Wilensky, Amy S. Passing for Normal (a moving account of life with a long-delayed diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder—and an “exploration of the larger themes of difference and the need to belong”)
• Will, Rosalyn. Chrysalis: A Memoir My Life Beyond The Cage Of Scoliosis
• Willey, Liane Holliday. Pretending to Be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome (a mother’s account of her own and her daughter’s life with Asperger’s syndrome).
• Williams, Donna. Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic (after 25 years, the daughter of abusive parents begins to emerge from a hallucinatory world—a view of autism totally different from others here)
• Williams, Marjorie. The Woman at the Washington Zoo: Writings on Politics, Family, and Fate (the last third is about her losing battle with cancer)
• Witchell, Alex. All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments . At just past 70, her mother started showing unmistakable signs of dementia; Witchell responded by cooking family recipes to "come to terms with her predicament, the growing phenomenon of 'ambiguous loss'— loss of a beloved one who lives on."\
• Wittman, Juliet . Breast Cancer Journal: A Century of Petals
• Wolff, Geoffrey. The Duke of Deception: Memories of My Father (about his con-man father)
• Wolff, Tobias. This Boy's Life (about escaping from his stepfather's abuse). Geoffrey and Tobias are brothers.
• Wurtzel, Elizabeth. Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America (atypical depression and bouts with drugs)
• Young, Joan. Wish by Spirit: A journ

How storytelling can aid in healing

Art, narrative, and healing

• Dignity therapy
• Good interview questions for the family
• Memoirs of illness, crisis, disability,
differentness, and survival (a reading list, organized by authors' last names)

• The self we tell ourselves we are influences our decisions

The Things They Left Behind by Peggy Burds, owner of Emerald Estate Sales, First Personal Singular Column in Washington Post Magazine (10-17-10). She concludes: "Everything I own has a story: It may not have started out as my story, but when I chose to bring it into my life, it became part of it. We all write our own history, and our stuff is often the only thing left to tell that story. I don't want my story to be a bunch of junk that doesn't mean anything."
Mini-Biographies Help Clinicians Connect With Patients (Bram Sable-Smith, Kaiser Health News, 6-10-19) Bob Hall was recovering from yet another surgery in March 2014 when a volunteer walked into his hospital room. It had been a rocky recovery since his lung transplant three months earlier at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wis. The volunteer wasn’t there to check on his lungs or breathing. Instead, she asked Hall if he wanted to tell his life story. When the story is finished, it’s attached to the patient’s electronic record, where a doctor or nurse working anywhere in the Veterans Affairs medical system can read it. Today more than 2,000 patients at the Madison VA have shared their life stories. Project organizers say it could change the way providers interact with patients. See also Storytelling Helps Hospital Staff Learn About the Person, Not Just the Patient (Bram Sable-Smith on Morning Edition, NPR, 6-3-19). Listen or read the transcript, or both.

Good interview questions for the family

50 Questions for Family History Interviews: What to Ask the Relatives Kimberly Powell, About.com
Great Questions List (StoryCorps)
Guide for Interviewing Family Members (Roots, abstracted from Virginia Allee, A Family History Questionnaire)
Questions asked during Dignity Therapy (Dignity in Care) In addition to the single open-ended question caregivers should ask: "What do I need to know about you as a person to give you the best care possible?"
Oral history interview questions and topics (JewishGen)
Questions We Should All Ask Mom (Lisa Belkin, Mother Lode, NY Times Adventures in Parenthood blog, 5-6--09)
What journalists need to know when interviewing a transgender person (Bethany Grace Howe, Nieman Storyboard, 6-24-21) A transgender activist and former journalist urges reporters to move past the bathroom question and other false stereotypes.
Script for Video or Audio Interviews with Family Members (RootsWeb, genealogy oriented)
20 Questions to Ask the Important Women in Your Life (Jewish Women's Archive)
Getting to Know You: A How-To Story for Kids on How to Interview Family Members (The Mini-Page, 12-25-10, PDF)
How to Ask Questions for Family History (Greg Lawrence and Kim Leatherdale, Lifetime Memories and Stories)
Interviewing Family: What Should I Ask? Major Life Events (Susan A. Kitchens, Family Oral History Using Digital Tools)
Interviewing Relatives (Ancestor Search)
Interview Questions for Family Interviews and Interview Techniques to Avoid (Ancestry.com)
Questions We Should All Ask Mom (Lisa Belkin, Mother Lode, NY Times Adventures in Parenthood blog)
We’re Losing Generations of Family History Because We Don’t Share Our Stories (Rachael Rifkin, Good Housekeeping, 11-13-19) Here's how to get your kids, siblings, and parents talking. See also Rifkin's Family Resemblance (Huff Post, 1-14-15) A team of experts came together to help her sort through family photos and "highlight family resemblance, showing that many different family members’ features can be found in one person’s face. This led to her Theory of Relative-ity newsletter, which you can subscribe to (which includes memory prompts).
Re-membering Pets: Documenting the meaning of people’s relationships with these family members by Barbara Baumgartner
Some sure-fire topics for your oral history interview (10 good questions from Delmar Watson)
Suggested Questions (Life Story Center, University of Southern Maine). Excellent questions listed by categories: Birth and Family of Origin, Cultural Settings and Traditions, Social Factors, Education, Love and Work, Historical Events and Periods, Retirement, Inner Life and Spiritual Awareness, Major Life Themes, Vision of the Future, Closure.
Links to top interview questions and guides (Telling Your Story, Pat McNees site)

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Dignity therapy

Dignity Therapy for the Dying: A Chance to Rewrite Life (Alix Spiegel, Morning Edition, NPR 9-12-11). Listen or read transcript.
Dignity therapy: a novel psychotherapeutic intervention for patients near the end of life
'Dignity therapy' gives comfort to dying patients (Jonathan Shorman, USA Today, 7-20-11) Helping terminally ill patients pass on their final thoughts may help give them a better quality of life, reports Harvey Chochinov, head of a Canadian research study published in Lancet Oncology. "Families also benefit from the transcript: It allows them to reconnect with or hold on to the words of their loved one."
Dignity Therapy: Final Words for Final Days by Harvey Max Chochinov, who developed Dignity Therapy.
Dignity in Care (see video on The ABCDs of Dignity Care--the core competencies of which are attitude, behavior, compassion, dialogue). See the Dignity in Care Toolkit:
---The Patient Dignity Inventory (PDI)
---Therapeutic Interventions
---Dignity Therapy for Dying Patients (developed by Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov to assist people dealing with the imminent end of their lives)
---Questions Asked During Dignity Therapy (Dignity in Care) In addition to the single open-ended question caregivers should ask: "What do I need to know about you as a person to give you the best care possible?"
Learning from dying patients during their final days: life reflections gleaned from dignity therapy (Thomas F. Hack, Susan E McClement, Harvey M Chochinov et al., Palliative Medicine, 7-6-10). Abstract. One of the products of dignity therapy is a transcript of the edited therapy session(s). A review of 50 "transcripts revealed that dignity therapy serves to provide a safe, therapeutic environment for patients to review the most meaningful aspects of their lives in such a manner that their core values become apparent. The most common values expressed by the patients included ‘Family’, ‘Pleasure’, ‘Caring’, ‘A Sense of Accomplishment’, ‘True Friendship’, and ‘Rich Experience’."
Dying woman reveals family's gangster secret (Orange County Register, 7-18-11) "It's a raw last conversation. We've heard many life stories, war accounts, prisoner of war nightmares and confessions that folks share before going to the grave. Yet, I've never been vividly transported to the underworld of Prohibition....She recalled her early life with the Shelton brothers, who ran East St. Louis and Southern Illinois the way Al Capone ran Chicago." Follow-up story: Granddaughter glad to know gangster past (Orange County Register, 9-19-11)
Exploring the therapeutic power of narrative at the end of life: a qualitative analysis of narratives emerging in dignity therapy ( Glendon R Tait, Catherine Schryer, Allan McDougall, and Lorelei Lingard, BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 2011) Abstract.
The Beneficial Effects of Life Story and Legacy Writing (Pat McNees, from Geriatric Care Management Journal, Spring 2009) 12 patients at the end of life were interviewed. Three narrative types emerged: "Evaluation narratives create a life lived before illness, with an overarching theme of overcoming adversity. Transition narratives describe a changing health situation and its meanings, including impact on family and on one's world view. Legacy narratives discuss the future without the patient and contain the parables and messages to be left for loved ones. While the interview protocol guides patients' responses, the commonality of narrative structures across interviews suggests that patients draw on experiences with two familiar genres: the eulogy and the medical interview, to create a narrative order during the chaos of dying. The dignity interview's resonance with these genres appears to facilitate a powerful, and perhaps unexpected sense of agency."

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” ~Father James Keller


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"It's four little words. Tell me a story. And that's all we do....Even the people who wrote the Bible were smart enough to know, tell them a story. The issue was evil in the world. The story was Noah. Now, the Bible knew that."
~ Don Hewitt, creator of television's 60 Minutes, in a documentary on his career

The Self We Tell Ourselves We Are Influences Our Decisions

"I have learned from autobiography that humans are adaptable and it is quite likely that more attention will be given to integration of information from the viewpoints of science, society, and individuals. Autobiography represents a 'soft area' for research, one that would not have been very respected in past years when the behavioral and social sciences were trying to emulate the advances in physics and chemistry. More recently, however, there is growing opinion that our interpretations of our lives influence the decisions we make. The self we tell ourselves we are, the narrative self, appears to influence what decisions we make in life. I had the opportunity to interview a leading psychoanalyst in Los Angeles when he turned 75. I asked him about his psychoanalytic theory and how it related to individuals. He said, 'That is my theory, you have to realize that every person has a theory about his or her own life.' This seems to me a very integrative statement for my approach to autobiography; autobiography reveals the individual's theory about himself or herself, how they explain their life. It leads to the idea that one's self, the self we tell ourselves, is in a sense a personal theory, a theory that provides direction for decisions and actions in everyday life. Here lies a possible connection between the autobiographical stories of life and the decisions that individuals have made and the directions their lives have taken."
~ James E. Birren, How Do I Think I Got Here? (The LLI Review, Fall 2006)
Birren was a pioneer in life story and reminiscence groups.
Read his life story here

Stories Are About Change (Shawn Coyne, Steven Pressfield Online, 8-9-13) In his wonderful book The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz tells the story of Marissa Panigrosso, who worked on the 98th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Grosz suggests that the reason every single person in the South Tower didn’t immediately leave the building is that they did not have a familiar story in their minds to guide them.
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Fiction featuring characters with disabilities

Crime Fiction Book List: Disabled Isn’t Unable
Fictional characters with disabilities
Books featuring characters with disabilities (Goodreads)
10 Captivating Books That Portray Disease and Disability Through Fiction (Rachel Kassenbrock, The Mighty)

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (for kids). August Pullman is a 10-year-old boy who likes Star Wars and Xbox, ordinary except for his jarring facial anomalies.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper (for kids) Melody can't walk, talk, or do normal daily activities for herself, but she has a photographic memory and the camera is always running.
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (for teen and young adult readers) Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She's not comforted by the news that she'll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (for mature teens). a poignant and sometimes humorous tale about navigating adolescence and depression
El Deafo by Cece Bell (grades 2 to 6) Cece loses her hearing from spinal meningitis, and takes readers through the arduous journey of learning to lip read and decipher the noise of her hearing aid, with the goal of finding a true friend. "'It's an honest and rather sweet tale of a girl coming to terms with her disability, and as such the kind of story that will strike a chord with any child who has felt ostracised or different." ~The Busy Librarian
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