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My Thoughts On 'Poster Child' by Emily Rapp

Posted Oct 01 2009 12:00am
The following is a post I made on Goodreads, which is my site of choice for keeping track of what I've read and plan to read. (Here's my profile, if you're curious or want to make friends.) My book for the past few days has been Poster Child, a 2007 memoir by Emily Rapp. Emily was born with a congenital defect that eventually left her without much of a left leg, so she's been getting around with a prosthesis since she was very young. Here's my thoughts:

I initially approached this book the same way I do any other book - the subject sounded interesting, the description or maybe the title caught my eye. I'm a sucker for memoirs - basically any memoir - so I picked it up to read a few days ago with no more thought to it than that. I was about halfway through the book before I realized why, exactly, I was feeling a connection to Emily Rapp and her disability. I was kind of surprised when I came to this realization, though afterwards I thought it should have been obvious all along.

Emily Rapp is missing her left leg. I am missing my sense of hearing. My particular loss is a profound one, rendering my right ear nearly useless, forcing my left ear to compensate with its limited abilities, even with my hearing aids. Emily Rapp is challenged when it comes to walking without her prosthesis; I am challenged when it comes to hearing anything without my hearing aids. Once I realized that I shared this connection with the author, I finished the book with an entirely new outlook.

Why didn't I think of it sooner? I don't particularly think of my hearing loss often. Much like Emily I grew up feeling proud and strong and faithful in my body's ability to cooperate with me, to bend to my wishes, and in the doctors who could help me. I forced my body beyond the loss, quelling it, ignoring it. It was not a part of who I was; it did not define me, except to make me unique. Recent events in my own life have forced me to consider my loss in much the same way as Emily was forced as she began to travel and experience new worlds.

I recently upgraded my hearing aids, but not only that. I upgraded my own sense of self, my outlook on the world encompassing my own body. I did research on the hearing aids, considering carefully how they would work in my own life. Like Emily, I have a rapport with a physician who knows my ears better than I do - in my case he both evaluates and selects the hearing aids for me. I got them about a week ago. They came with a $6,500 price tag (certainly cheaper than a leg apparently is, but hearing aids are rarely covered by insurance), a wider range of sounds, and their own unique challenges that have left me considering my hearing in ways I haven't done before. What can I hear better? What is softer, as it should be? Does her voice really sound like that - does the air conditioning really have to be so loud?

Okay, okay, anyway. This review isn't about me, it's about Emily, and her book. I hope I've explained adequately my own take on the book. Her struggle resonated for me, but she also was able to convey her life in such a way as to be accessible and sympathetic to anyone. She definitely has a gift for explaining both the technology behind her multiple prostheses, and her thought processes as she grew up. She doesn't shy away from the difficulties she had, nor from the positive experiences and any emotions she felt.

I really found her book fascinating and a good read. I'm glad I read it at this point in my life.

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