The Backwards Hand: A Memoir

Curbstone: Northwestern Univ. May 2024. 248p. ISBN 9780810147157. pap. $20. MEMOIR
In 1990, novelist Lee (Crisis Actor) was born with a rare congenital disability that didn’t manifest until he was five. He was diagnosed with bilateral radioulnar synostosis in his left arm, which meant the bones in his forearm were fused in a way that left him unable to rotate his hand and made the palm of his hand face permanently downward. He tried hiding this condition, but to no avail. His memoir consists of cleverly arranged snippets of his own experiences, mixed in with stories of famous and lesser-known people with disabilities. Taken together, these paint a brilliant, illuminating, grim, and sometimes hopeless picture of disturbing societal attitudes toward people with disabilities. Of special interest are Lee’s references to the word “monster,” which he asserts is often vocally hurled at people with disabilities.
VERDICT Lee’s candid and poignant writing style will appeal to numerous readers. His highly recommended memoir about what it’s like to be a person with a rare congenital disability is insightful.
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