Sunday, May 29, 2011

Book Review: Poster Child: A Memoir

Title: Poster Child: A Memoir
Author: Emily Rapp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN-13: 978-1-59691-256-4
ISBN-10: 1-59691-256-1
Price: $24, Publication Date: 2007, Page Count: 230
Reviewer: Marilyn Coffey

I love to read memoirs, especially "little guy" memoirs. Celebrity memoirs are okay, especially if the celebrity is a writer, but time after time I'm drawn to books written by ordinary people. I find it easy to imagine myself in their lives. So it was small wonder that I gravitated to POSTER CHILD with its cover picture of a pert red-headed girl posing with her training bike. It's warm out. She's wearing shorts. Her artificial right leg looks like it's made of plastic; a bulb in its knee joint lets her pedal.

Emily Rapp, the author and the poster child, turned out to be a remarkable writer. She told me her story in such detail, including emotional detail, that I was swept into her anguish of being a child and a young woman who had a portion of her leg amputated when four. I had no idea, really, when I picked up this book what living with an artificial leg would be like. But soon I felt I was alongside her as she went through dozens of operations to replace her artificial leg as she outgrew it.

Listen to how clearly Rapp writes. "For my first fitting, I stood barefoot on the dirty floor of the changing room while the prosthetist took measurements of my stump. The stink of the healing wound was finally gone; the limb was clean. Now that the left foot had been removed, or "disarticulated"the sharp sound of the word matching the rough nature of the action itselfI had my natural heel at the end of the short leg."

But no wonder Rapp writes well. A Fulbright Scholarship recipient educated at Harvard, she is a professor in the M.F.A. program at Antioch University Los Angeles.

I highly recommend this book, primarily for the skill with which Rapp leads us through the first thirty years of her life, showing us what it was like to live with her "grievous, irrevocable flaw."  Unflinchingly honest and sometime darkly humorous, POSTER CHILD is written without sentiment. I watched her struggle to keep up with her fashionable friends, her agony about making love to a man (should she leave her prosthesis on? off?), her final, tenuous, gift of acceptance.

An elegant writer, an amazing book.

January 31, 2008

Marilyn Coffey is an award-winning writer of poetry and a widely published author of prose. Visit her website, for a sampling of her writing. Or read her work: Great Plains Patchwork, Marcella,or KANSAS QUARTERLY Vol. 15 No. 2.  

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