Places I’ve Taken My Body: Essays

Persea. Jun. 2020. 224p. ISBN 9780892555130. $24.95. LIT
Poet essayist Brown (The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded) writes candidly about her physical and emotional struggles with cerebral palsy in this collection of deeply personal essays. Moving restlessly through a world designed for the able-bodied to achieve independence and literary success, Brown chronicles everything from navigating inaccessible buildings to coping with chronic, unacknowledged grief—both for a lost twin sister and for a different body—which manifests into issues of anger and trust. Musing on the experiences that shape self-identity, Brown explores her relationship with her body through encounters with places—an abandoned house, an anatomical theater, a historical center for the disabled—and locates, in literary works and the complex rituals of faith, guideposts for her own journey. There is much to admire in the beauty of Brown’s language and the honesty of her pain, despite the relentless introspection of the essays that often kept this reader at an emotional distance.
VERDICT Anyone who has faced physical challenges is sure to find wisdom in Brown’s words as well as the universal truths she shares.
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