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Places I Have Taken My Body, by Molly McCully Brown. 

March 12, 2020

Places I've Taken My Body
Places I Have Taken My Body, by Molly McCully Brown.  Persea Books, 2020.


5 stars

Powerful essays by a woman describing how cerebral palsy has affected who she is and how she has lived fully anyway; an important book with insights for all of us as we struggle with the limitations of our bodies.

Molly McCully Brown was born and raised in western Virginia near Lynchburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.   She studied at Bard College and Stanford University and received her MFA from the University of Mississippi.  Her first book of poetry, The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, was well received, and she has been awarded a variety of awards and fellowships both national and international.  Currently she teaches at Kenyon College as the Kenyon Review Fellow in Poetry.

As she displays in her new book, Brown is much more than the cerebral palsy which has shaped her life since birth.  She is an exquisite poet and essayist who has used her linguistic ability to understand her disability and larger issues of the body and mind.  Never free from her physical pain and limitations,  she has shaped her own life and prusued a life full of writing, teaching, and travel.  Her new book is labeled as being a collection of essays, but in some ways it is a non-chronological memoir of her journey to live fully, probing her limitations and moving ahead anyway.

With parents who taught English in a small college, Brown grew up immersed in language. As her physical problems intensified, she endured numerous surgeries and therapies which scarred her physically and mentally without curing her.  But neither pain nor her limitations lessened her drive to put her experience into language.

In poetry and later in prose, Brown found a way to express herself.  The repetitions and silences of poetry captured the repetitions and slowness with which she was forced to live.  In poetry she could release the shame and guilt for the disability with which she had to cope. She could write of how her own physical problems left her unable to trust and  become close to others and unwilling to share her own needs.  As a result of these experiences, her book is both raw and intimate.

Most of us do not share the disabilities that have shaped Brown, but at some level we all face the limitations of our physicality.  Brown’s story offers insight and hope for what many of us experience but do not always face.  I strongly recommend her book.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2020 12:07 pm

    A profound book and great review. 🙂

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