Life Prints: A Memoir of Healing and Discovery (The Cross-Cultural Memoir Series)

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9781558612372: Life Prints: A Memoir of Healing and Discovery (The Cross-Cultural Memoir Series)
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When she is six, Mary Grimley is the nation's first "poster child," dining with President Roosevelt at the Warm Springs rehabilitation center and posing in her wheelchair for publicity shots. But a close look at photos reveals something other than the "cheerful invalid" that the abled expect: mouth closed in a frown, eyes defiant and proud, this bold child is less than impressed with the label of "poor crippled girl."

As a brilliant young scholar in the 1950s and 1960s, Mary Grimley Mason refuses to focus on her disability and instead makes herself privy to a revolution of ideas. At Radcliffe College and in graduate school at the University of Chicago and Harvard, she surrounds herself with writers and thinkers, plunging into the bohemian lifestyle of Cambridge cooperatives and radical intellectualism. But inchoate concepts of "normalcy" soon twist Mason's path, and she finds herself married to another scholar, supporting his studies, keeping house, and raising children. Even during several years in Paris, she is positioned to overhear rather than participate in conversations with scholars and writers such as Louis Massignon. Years of conflict result in a difficult realization: she has laid aside her own dream to become the dream of another-"the perfect wife of a writer," as Frank O'Connor predicted.

Mason has spent her life struggling against prejudice toward disabled people; now she has discovered an even more formidable enemy: the sexism of mentors, friends, family, and even herself. But she will find the courage to contend with both of the forces that seek to define and limit her. After undergoing years of physical therapy and social isolation, after forcing the strictures of disability behind her, she at last accepts her identity as a disabled person, abandoning "that double in my life-that consciousness or voice that tried to pass as able-bodied." At the same time, she moves beyond the limitations society has prescribed for women, embracing feminism-and discovering her life's work. Specializing academically in women's autobiography, Mary Grimley Mason is unusually well-suited to narrate and interpret her own life, taking control of its representation with forthright determination. In this frank life

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From the Publisher:

"Life Prints is a compelling and evocative story of a woman's life - her pleasures, work, passions and losses. Mason's focus on strength and healing tell a fresh disability story, however. What we see her overcoming is not the burden of her physical disability, but rather the often crushing burden to get better, to be cured, as family and society relentlessly demand of her." - Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, author of Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Disability in American Culture and Literature

"I empathize with Mary Mason's attempts to suppress her inconvenient double selves and disappear into the worlds of the able bodied and of men's authority. I was elated when she could not assimilate in either body or soul. I cheered when she recognized herself as a woman, a feminist, a writer and a person who owned the effects of polio on her body. Because of her new purchase on life, I look forward to another Mary Mason memoir in ten years. I come away from the book ready for more." - Peggy McIntosh, Wellesley College Center for Research on Women

About the Author:

Mary Grimley Mason who lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, is emerita professor of English at Emmanuel College in Boston and a visiting research scholar at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. She has published articles on the theory and practice of autobiography, and co-edited Journeys: Autobiographical Writings by Women. She is currently working on a collection of oral histories of disabled women and their work experiences.

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