Sunday, June 26, 2011

You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know, by Heather Sellers

If you're a memoir fan you'll love this offering by Heather Sellers. Sellers' account of her upbringing -- psychotic mother and alcoholic, cross-dressing father -- makes my own crazy childhood sound like "Leave it to Beaver." But the meat of Sellers story isn't the chaos of her childhood, but a neurological condition, one she didn't realize she suffered from until she was an adult, called prosopagnosia, or face blindness.

This intriguing condition leaves Sellers unable to recognize faces, and the anecdotes she shares -- one, for instance, about walking right past her boyfriend -- are in turns bizarre, funny and sad.

Seller's memoir is really two overlapping stories: one of a child growing up with crazy parents, and the other of an adult with a strange disorder, and this structure gave YDLMA a fragmented feel. Although there is no known cause for face blindness, Sellers interweaves the stories as if there is a connection between her crazy childhood and her face blindness. Sellers also tosses around the idea that her prosopagnosia might have resulted from the concussion she suffered when her father hit her on the head with a frying pan.

All this drama and trauma had to cause her distress, but Sellers takes an even hand to the telling; she's not vying for sympathy. Sellers' don't-cry-for-me tone, though, kept me from being able to fully sympathize with her. Her steady, this-is-just-the-way-it-was voice kept me at arm's length. Still, if you're anything like me, you'll be riveted by Sellers' unusual, compelling story.

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