Start your review of Autobiography of a Face Write a review Shelves: biography At an early age, Lucy Grealy was found to have a rare form of cancer. It would define the rest of her life. A third of her jawbone was removed to try to stem the spread of this cancer. She endured two and a half years of chemotherapy and many subsequent years of radiation treatments. In addition, she had literally dozens of surgeries attempting to restore her face. Each time her body would eventually absorb transplanted material and sag back in on itself.

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It describes her childhood struggles with jaw cancer and the resulting disfigurement that she considers the true tragedy of her life. As she works the party, we see how acutely aware Grealy is of the partygoers curious and disturbed gazes at her disfigured jaw, which she attempts to hide behind her long hair. Even from the brief anecdote, we can see clearly how ashamed Grealy is at her own disfigurement.

Fourth-grade Lucy sustains a minor injury while playing dodgeball in school. This injury leads her to the dentist who is the first to realize something more may be wrong. After a series of doctors visits and misdiagnoses, she is diagnosed with Ewings sarcoma, a deadly form of cancer. These surgeries, while successful in treating her cancer, involve removing part of her jaw, and leave her with a disfigured face. She is unable to go out in public without enduring the cruel taunts of other children and the stares of complete strangers.

She undergoes plastic surgery to fix the disfigurement but it is largely unsuccessful. Lucy seems unaware of the danger she is in at first, but after two years of treatments and several unsuccessful plastic surgeries, she comes to terms with the full weight of her diagnoses. Along with this realization, she gains enough self-consciousness to realize that other people find her ugly. This truth dawns on her with a slow shock and she begins to avoid seeing her reflection in the mirror, going out in public, or doing anything that reminds her of her own disfigurement.

During this period, Lucy must also face the fallout from her diagnosis within her own family. She pushes her daughter to remain strong and stoic. Although this seems like the best choice at the time, it disables Lucy from addressing her own emotions. She worries about disappointing her mother every time she cries or expresses her fear. When she returns to school, Lucy must deal with the aftermath of her treatments.

She finishes high school and attend Sarah Lawrence college where she studies poetry. There, she begins to develop an identity again and develops strong, fulfilling friendships. However, she still finds herself missing the deep connection of a romantic relationship, believing herself too ugly to ever be loved that way.

As Grealy progresses into adulthood, she develops a stronger sense of identity, has a successful career as a writer and poet, and even has multiple romantic relationships. Despite this success, however, she remains deeply insecure. Obsessed with her face, Lucy believes that fixing her disfigurement will fix all of her other problems as well. She undergoes multiple dangerous, expensive, and largely unsuccessful surgeries in an attempt to do this. When they fail, we becomes depressed and withdraws from relationships.

By the memoirs end, Grealy is still insecure and struggling, but she seems to have found some peace with her own appearance and identity. In this small revelation, she begins to once again feel whole. Update this section!


Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face Essay

As I said from my very first post, whether a post on here is about blindness or Breaking Bad or organic chemistry or a book review, I always want the underlying focus to be on storytelling. I was hungry for more of her work, and then once I found out a little bit about her story, I picked up her memoir. There is even a chapter where she and a hospital friend sort of con a hospital volunteer into taking them to see the animal lab and get somewhat traumatized by seeing the vivisected and caged animals. Lucy details the excruciating pain of chemotherapy while also conveying her childhood ignorance about the seriousness of what was going on. She has to have a major surgery to remove the cancer in her jaw, and then spends years and years, operation after operation, trying to reconstruct her face. Lucy is very cerebral and she comes up with all kinds of mental gymnastics to avoid her situation.


Autobiography of a Face

Throughout her childhood and young adulthood, Lucy Grealy attempts to create a self-image based on her looks, through the reactions of others, and her own hopefulness, but these fail and she learns to forget her image completely. It is at this time of forgetting her image that Grealy demonstrates that she is able to recognize a difference between an image that is reflected in a mirror and an image that one can create through language. Grealy, in Autobiography of a Face, separates her face from her image and creates a …show more content… Another interesting thing about this passage is the fact that Grealy is commenting on this photograph after she has become an adult. Grealy demonstrates that children tend to see things much worse that they really are: "This singularity of meaning-I was my face, I was ugliness It became the launching pad from which to lift off, the one immediately recognizable place to point to when asked what was wrong with my life. Everything led to it, everything receded from it-" Grealy 7. The definition of the word ugly is, "Very unattractive or displeasing in appearance" Webster


Lucy Grealy


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