A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist - the vividly told, gloriously illustrated memoir of an artist born with disabilities who searches for freedom and connection in a society afraid of strange bodies; 'a hymn to life' (DAVID MITCHELL).
'A hymn to life, love, family, and spirit' DAVID MITCHELL, author of Cloud Atlas
The vividly told, gloriously illustrated memoir of an artist born with disabilities who searches for freedom and connection in a society afraid of strange bodies.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD and THE BARBELLION PRIZE
In 1958, amongst the children born with spina bifida is Riva Lehrer. At the time, most such children are not expected to survive. Her parents and doctors are determined to 'fix' her, sending the message over and over again that she is broken. That she will never have a job, a romantic relationship, or an independent life. Enduring countless medical interventions, Riva tries her best to be a good girl and a good patient in the quest to be cured.
Everything changes when, as an adult, Riva is invited to join a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building Disability Culture. Their work is daring, edgy, funny, and dark-it rejects tropes that define disabled people as pathetic, frightening, or worthless. They insist that disability is an opportunity for creativity and resistance. Emboldened, Riva asks if she can paint their portraits-inventing an intimate and collaborative process that will transform the way she sees herself, others, and the world.
'Riva Lehrer is a great artist and a great storyteller. This is a brilliant book, full of strangeness, beauty, and wonder' AUDREY NIFFENEGGER
Lehrer's story is a revelation of an inner subjective life-full of tragedy, love, and creativity-pushing against the external social stigmas, cultural narratives, and prejudices surrounding disability. She admits a felt kinship with other 'monsters' because their bodies were also 'built by human hands', but unlike them, she is her own purpose, her own meaning, her own unstoppable golem - Stephen Asma
Luminous; a profound portrait of the artist as a young-and mature-woman; an unflinching social history of disability over the last six decades; and a hymn to life, love, family, and spirit - David Mitchell
Vivid . . . unforgettable . . . It is the story of how someone who is fundamentally different made not a life that transcends that difference, but a life that lionizes it. This book expands our notion of what constitutes the human experience, and it does so with generosity and open-heartedness - Andrew Solomon
Not your typical memoir about 'what it's like to be disabled in a non-disabled world . . . Lehrer tells her stories about becoming the monster she was always meant to be: glorious, defiant, unbound, and voracious. Read it! - Alice Wong, founder and director, Disability Visibility Project
Riva Lehrer is a great artist and a great storyteller. This is a brilliant book, full of strangeness, beauty, and wonder - Audrey Niffenegger
With deft painter's prose, Riva Lehrer helps us discover what it is to be human when others see us as broken. In Golem Girl, Lehrer gives us the gift, at long last, of our own crip beauty - Nicola Griffith, author of HILD
Oy, what a story: Job, eat your heart out! In Riva Lehrer's life chronicle, an appalling fate (and I don't just mean the circumstances of her birth) gets visited upon an invincible character, and the result is a wincing-wise tale, by turns harrowing and hilarious, cut clean through with flecks of grace and beauty. Lehrer is one wry mensch, and an extraordinary kinstler to boot - Lawrence Weschler
This searing personal history expands Lehrer's project of looking at our bodies inside and out, in all their queerness, fragility, and strength, into a stunning new dimension - Alison Bechdel
Riva Lehrer is an artist, writer, and curator whose work focuses on issues of physical identity and the socially challenged body. She is best known for representations of people with impairments, and those whose sexuality or gender identity have long been stigmatized. A longtime faculty member of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Riva Lehrer is currently an instructor in medical humanities at Northwestern University.