The Strength of a Woman: Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The forceful book Autobiography of a Face by the praiseworthy Lucy Grealy is much more than the tale of a person. In fact, the author tells us her own experience about dealing with a potentially lethal type of cancer which caused her to experience the removal of part of her jaw, giving her an unusual face. Fighting against cancer is very difficult, but it is even more difficult when you are almost ten years old and you are about to go through puberty and adolescence. You feel so insecure because every part of your body is changing because of hormones. The shape of your body, your behavior, your way of seeing life, your face, are all becoming something new, something you cannot easily manage. You know that you are no longer a child, but not yet a woman. At the same time, Lucy experiences two very difficult challenges: the fight against cancer and the challenging path of becoming a woman. Thanks to her incredible bravery, a bit of ignorance, and a brilliant mind, Lucy tackles her life and the way people look at her because of her illness. After a troubled path, she is able to think about herself as a human being and a powerful woman. As members of society, we have to do with gender as a social box. (Housel) This means that depending on our biological sex, we are supposed to act in a specific way; we are supposed to have some physical characteristics or some tastes; we are supposed to have a determined kind of behavior. (Housel) To act in the society, we are at first accepted if we attend to these gender standards, or stereotypes, and then we are appreciated for the inner side of ourselves, for our brilliant mind, for our natural disposition. In this sense, our physical aspect is the first thing that draws people’s attention and our face represents our “business card”. As a girl who is ready to become a woman in soon, Lucy is supposed to respect some standards about beauty. Unfortunately, this is not as easy for Lucy as it is for everyone else. Due to her disease, part of her jaw has been removed, so part of her face, even after a lot of plastic surgery, does not look perfect. She notices this when she says, “I was my face, I was ugliness” (Grealy 7). She knows that her face is what hinders her ability to establish relationships with people, and to act normally in society. For this reason, she is scared of having a contact with people. Each time she goes to school Lucy is teased by the other students, especially male students. At the beginning, when her disease showed the first signs on her, she used to be teased only because she did not look as the other students and because she had a huge scar on her face. This is very hard for her, because “every time I was teased, which usually happened several times a day, it seemed incrementally more painful. I was good at not listening, at pretending I hadn’t heard, but I could sense myself changing, becoming more fearful.” (Grealy 145) Then, as soon as she starts junior high school, students begin to look at her and to tease her not only because of her physical appearance, but also “they were passing judgment on my suitability, or lack of it, as a girlfriend” (Grealy 125). This was even worse for her. Experiencing puberty and going through all this is terrible because you feel so vulnerable and uncomfortable with everyone. The only time Lucy feels free is on Halloween night, because people do not care about unusual faces. She feels that you are not on the same level of other people, therefore she is not able to get in contact with them. The situation gets worse for Lucy, when she starts to lose her hair. Even though someone told her that this may happen, she didn’t feel prepared for the event and “I was sitting in the car with [her] mother when [she] first noticed it, and [she] started to cry” (Grealy103). Until she loses them, day by day, she says that “my hair seemed like a...
Cited: Grealy, Lucy. Autobiography of a Face. Boston: Houghton Muffin Company, 1994. Print.
Housel, Rebecca. “The Postmodernism.” Rochester, NY. 29 Aug. 2013. Class Lecture.
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