Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taking Note: Lisa Genova

While I am still more in a vacation mode than a blogging one, I just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova and am compelled to write.

I learned about this book because of the circuitous way in which it was published and achieved acclaim. Lisa Genova had written this moving story about a fifty year old Harvard University professor who is struck with early onset Alzheimer Disease. For a year Lisa could not get an agent to represent her, much less an editor to publish the book. But Lisa believed in the importance of this story told from the perspective of the woman who is losing her memory. She believed so much that she contacted the National Alzheimer's Association. The group, after reading the manuscript, endorsed it and asked her to write a blog for their Voice Open Move campaign that was launching at the end of that month. Which was all wonderful news, except for that one little problem. The book was not yet published.

Lisa Genova made what is a difficult decision for any author. She decided to self publish. She already had a website, because, in the true spirit of anyone who has a dream, she was already acting as if.

The book not only generated great sales through Amazon, it received an enormous amount of positive press which led to an agent soliciting her. Funny how tables can turn. The book then sold at auction to Simon and Shuster for just over a half million dollars.

I am struck by Lisa's story. She did not pay attention to the doors that were initially slammed in her face. She believed in herself and that her novel was important enough to be published until eventually those doors swung open.

But beyond this story of publishing success I am also moved by the importance of the work. Alzheimer's is one of those frightening diseases, to those who succumb to it and to the families and loved ones of the victim. While my tendency here is to write about books that are inspiring in their tale and entertaining, this one is different. It is heartbreaking and at times frightening to imagine. Nevertheless is one that should be read, whether the disease has personally affected your life or not.

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