Friday, March 24, 2017

Diary of a Beautiful Disaster

Diary of a Beautiful Disaster. Kristin Bartzokis. 2017. KiCam Projects. 162 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:  My name is Kristin. Some people call me Kris, KB, Bart, or the girl who can do no-handed cartwheels. After all, I was a champion gymnast. Unfortunately, I was born with a facial deformity, a problem that seems to define the person I am no matter what else I might accomplish in life.

Premise/plot: The book is a memoir. From the preface, "These pages tell the story of my life, the life of a woman in her early thirties who is afflicted with an unusual facial anomaly known as Treacher Collins syndrome." There are two narrative styles--techniques--in this one. Some chapters read like journal entries. These chapters are dated and focus on specific surgeries. They're meant to be give an intimate behind-the-scenes look at what it's like--for parent and child--to be hospitalized and endure such physical and emotional pain. (Physical and perhaps emotional for Kristin, and emotional for the parents.) Other chapters cover more time, and are more general while still being reflective.

My thoughts: It was a compelling, engaging read. If there's a lesson to be learned, it is never make assumptions. For example, never assume that because a person looks different that they are "special needs" or "disabled" or "mentally challenged." Don't assume that because a person looks different that they are friendless loners in need of pity and a reassuring "Jesus Loves You." Bartzokis writes from the heart in this one.

Each person has their story to tell. And each person who looks "different" has their own story to tell. It is a balancing act in this one. Tension between making it very personal, this is what it was like for me, and speaking up as a representative of the syndrome, giving voice to others. Too much on one side or the other could weaken the narrative perhaps. 

  • My flaws make me noticeable, but my strength makes me memorable. (5)
  • One day in middle school, I sat at the mall food court with a friend. A woman came up to us as we ate our Chinese food, looked me straight in the eyes, and proclaimed, "Jesus loves you." Then she disappeared as quickly as she came. She never acknowledged my friend, never said, "Hello" or "Have a nice day." She simply ruined my meal with a solitary phrase. Apparently she felt I needed to know that the Lord still loved me even with my imperfections, which gave me no comfort at all. Let me say this to anyone who agrees with this woman's actions: Singling someone out because of her uniqueness, even if doing so is well intended, is not an appropriate act. It does not promote self-love and acceptance; instead, it fosters feelings of self-doubt and isolation. Having a stranger single me out in a crowded establishment made me even more aware of my flaws. It was like tunnel vision. When she spoke, it was only she and I in the moment. The world around me had faded to black, and her eyes bore into me. That occurrence, that single phrase, scarred me. It serves as a reminder that some people will always see me as flawed or damaged. Or perhaps, it's something deeper. Maybe it's a reminder that I will always see myself as flawed or damaged. (21)
  • But what others need to understand is that for people like me, pain, whether physical or emotional, is a way of life. It is an everyday, every-hour, every-minute occurrence. If I let every instance of pain get to me, I'd be in tears all day long...So the way I deal with pain is to make it my enemy, to fight it, to not let it rule my life. (31)
  • Over the years, especially when I was younger, I received many inquisitions of, "What happened to your face?" (93)
  • My story might be unique to me, but my struggle with confidence is universal. (142)
  • It is time for me to recognize that I am more than just a beautiful disaster. I am beautiful. (162)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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