Book-In-Focus: Places I've Taken My Body: Essays by Molly McCully Brown
“ Brown eloquently, often wittily describes a mostly wheelchair-bound life lived with pain and the places, emotional and physical, to which she has traveled. [Her identical twin] Frances died [in] less than two days . . . and Brown was stricken with cerebral palsy. . . . Memories of her dead sister haunt every page of this powerful book, as does the ominous ticking of her lifetime survival-rate clock. . . .Brown is a writer to watch. . . .Heartfelt and wrenching.”
About the Book
Indispensable essays on the body, mind, and spirit by Molly McCully Brown, author of the acclaimed poetry collection, The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, a book the New York Times described as “part history lesson, part séance, part ode to dread. It arrives as if clutching a spray of dead flowers. It is beautiful and devastating.”
In seventeen intimate essays, poet Molly McCully Brown explores living within and beyond the limits of a body―in her case, one shaped since birth by cerebral palsy, a permanent and often painful movement disorder. In spite of―indeed, in response to―physical constraints, Brown leads a peripatetic life: the essays comprise a vivid travelogue set throughout the United States and Europe, ranging from the rural American South of her childhood to the cobble stoned streets of Bologna, Italy.
Moving between these locales and others, Brown constellates the subjects that define her inside and out: a disabled and conspicuous body, a religious conversion, a missing twin, a life in poetry. As she does, she depicts vividly for us not only her own life but a striking array of sites and topics, among them Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the world’s oldest anatomical theater, the American Eugenics movement, and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.
Throughout, Brown offers us the gift of her exquisite sentences, woven together in consideration, always, of what it means to be human―flawed, potent, feeling.
Reviews and What Readers Say
“ These remarkable essays invite us to look long and hard at our own interior landscapes, and to negotiate exterior ones with as much grace and gratitude as we can muster."
—Eliza Griswold, author of "Amity & Prosperity," winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“ I want to press this book into the hands of everyone I know. Writing from the locus of her own constantly changing, often intractable body, Molly McCully Brown captures the fullness of the human experience ― desire, loss, flesh, faith, poetry, place, memory ― with lyric compression and expansive grace. Reading these exquisite essays made me want to get out and do something with my own body ― kneel at an altar and recite the Hail Mary, stub out a cigarette in Bologna, stand on a hilltop and shout expletives at the Trump administration. Which is to say, these are urgent, compelling essays that remind us how to be fully alive inside our own bodies, wherever we take them."
—Jamie Quatro, author of "Fire Sermon" and "I Want to Show You More
“ Poet Brown (The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded) explores living with cerebral palsy in her fine prose debut … Brown’s work leaves readers with a lyrical look at living within the confines of the body."
“ ...searing and ineffable... Brown's essays can feel like a punch in the gut, but they are beautiful, nevertheless.” —Booklist
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Molly McCully Brown is the author of the poetry collection The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded (Persea Books, 2017) winner of the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize. With Susannah Nevison, she is also the co-author of the poetry collection In the Field Between Us (forthcoming from Persea Books in 2020). Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Tin House, The Paris Review, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, and The New York Times. She teaches at Kenyon College.