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Autobiography of a Face (1994)

by Lucy Grealy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,101697,542 (3.85)63
"Lucy Grealy's ruthless self-examination, rich fantasy life, and great derring-do inform this powerful memoir about the premium we put on beauty and on a woman's face in particular. It took Lucy 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 surgery left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special. Later she internalized the paralyzing fear of never being loved. Heroically and poignantly, she learned to define herself from the inside out." "This memoir arrives at a time when the worship of beauty in our culture is at an all-time high, a time when more and more women seek physical perfection. Lucy Grealy awakens in us the difficult truth that beauty, finally, is to be found deep within."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
  1. 40
    Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett (joaldo)
    joaldo: I recommend reading Autobiography of a Face first, then Truth and Beauty. Autobiography of a Face should be enjoyed for what it is, without being in some way 'tainted' by the harsher view of Lucy's friend, Ann Patchett. Reading Ann's book next will then give the reader a completely different perspective on the poet herself, her work, and on their friendship.… (more)
  2. 10
    Change Me into Zeus's Daughter: A Memoir by Barbara Robinette Moss (betsytacy)
    betsytacy: An aspect of both memoirs is how the author dealt with a facial disfigurement. In Grealy's case it was the removal of a large part of her jaw after developing cancer at age nine. In Moss's case the disfigurement was caused by malnutrition, the result of growing up in an impoverished family with an alcoholic father.… (more)
  3. 00
    Lessons in Taxidermy: A Compendium of Safety and Danger (Punk Planet Books) by Bee Lavender (kperfetto)
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» See also 63 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
"The pain these children brought with their stares engulfed every other pain in my life." p XV

This is a heartbreaking read. Although I've never been physically disfigured in the way Grealy was, I resonated strongly with her thoughts on beauty and acceptance, and her fear of never being loved.

Because the main themes of the book were so serious in nature, I wasn't expecting for this to be nearly so funny as it was. That really helped to balance the book, kept it from being overwhelming.

As for morally objectionable content, there were a few sexual comments, nothing overly descriptive. God's name was used in vain.

The ending seemed abrupt somehow. I really wish there had been some sort of epilogue or afterword, especially since the edition I read was published after Grealy's death at age 39. (According to Wikipedia, she died of a heroin overdose after becoming addicted to her pain medication.)

This is one of those books that stays with you and makes you think. ( )
  RachelRachelRachel | Nov 21, 2023 |
Linked to Truth and Beauty by Anne Patchett mentioned in “A Month of Sundays”
  BJMacauley | Aug 13, 2023 |
This was a difficult book to read, but one which I found beautifully written despite the emotional and physical pain suffered by the author throughout her entire story. As a child of nine, she was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, which is a cancer that was treated with radical facial surgery. In order to prevent a recurrence of the life-threatening cancer, she had to undergo two and a half years of chemotherapy. Following that, she endured years and years of mostly disappointing plastic surgery on her jawline. She never felt that her face was sufficiently acceptable in the view of others although she was able to make friends after high school, attend college and direct her career toward writing.

This book made me want to be her friend. She always seemed so lonely and misunderstood because of her appearance. Her greatest solace during her younger years was with her companionship and work with horses. Both of the horses that she once owned met untimely ends. It all seemed so unfair.

In this book, the author mentioned a lot about flap procedures for plastic surgery. As a surgical oncology nurse back in the 1960s and 1970s, I remember patients with those flap procedures. They were horrible. Fortunately the author never had any of those that were proposed to her, but the surgical procedures which she did have (there were so many!) had terrribly disappointing results. It all seems unfair to me that a child had to suffer such a fate and continue to endure hardships as what this author faced year after year. She was a very brave person for telling her own story with such eloquence. ( )
  SqueakyChu | Feb 14, 2023 |
Good moving story of a disfigured girl and how she coped with it. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
Lucy Grealy‘s Autobiography of a Face is on most short lists of best memoirs. Grealy became modestly famous from her story at the time it was published.

While I can’t say I didn’t enjoy reading it or sympathize with the girl who suffered so much, it didn’t affect me–reach me or touch me–the way it seems to affect most readers. I slightly pulled back from Grealy at times as I read the book. That’s kind of horrifying for me to think about because what happens to the young Grealy in the story is tragic: Grealy had cancer as a child and lost part of her jaw to the disease, growing up with a disfigured face.

As I try to look through the book to give you an idea of why I felt lukewarm, I can’t find any clues–although it seems to me that the world through her eyes didn’t seem like a world I know or a way that I connect with the world. Skimming the book, I realize I need to read it again. Maybe it was me. I want to be fair. I want to be accurate. I’ll toss it on the pile of unread books!

(When I subsequently read Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty I began to realize why I didn't "properly" respond to Grealy's book!) ( )
  LuanneCastle | Mar 5, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Grealy, Lucyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ettlinger, MarionPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lameris, MarianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mac Weeney, AlanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patchett, AnnAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sullivan, MichaelaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wargny, Daniellesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wertelet, MelodieDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
For my friends, whom I love
First words
My friend Stephen and I used to do pony parties together.
Quotations
Everybody from my mother to the characters I read about in books (who were as actual and important as real people to me), was always looking at someone else’s life and envying it, wishing to occupy it. I wanted them to stop, to see how much they had already, how they had their health and their strength. I imagined how my life would be if I had half their fortune.
Animals were both the lives I took care of and the lives who took care of me. Horses neither disapproved nor approved of what I looked like. All that counted was how I treated them, how my actions weighted themselves in this world.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Lucy Grealy's ruthless self-examination, rich fantasy life, and great derring-do inform this powerful memoir about the premium we put on beauty and on a woman's face in particular. It took Lucy 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 surgery left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special. Later she internalized the paralyzing fear of never being loved. Heroically and poignantly, she learned to define herself from the inside out." "This memoir arrives at a time when the worship of beauty in our culture is at an all-time high, a time when more and more women seek physical perfection. Lucy Grealy awakens in us the difficult truth that beauty, finally, is to be found deep within."--BOOK JACKET.

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