Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know

Heather Sellers has a rare neurological condition that leaves her unable to recognize faces. This is her memoir of trying to live an adult life with this disorder. I expected that the memoir would begin with Heather having a diagnosis, but that is not the case. For most of her adult life Sellers had no idea why she couldn't recognize people, and she had to try and compensate. Much of the memoir chronicles Heather's search for a diagnosis. This book is also a story about childhood. Sellers grew up with mentally ill and negligent parents. Her parents had little time for Heather's problems; they were consumed by their own. This helps to explain how Sellers could grow into adulthood unaware that she had a neurological problem. I learned a great deal from this book. I had never heard of this particular disorder, prosopagnosia. Indeed, it is rare. In a world in which everyone seems to claim that they have problems recognizing faces, it is hard to recognize, and get recognition, for such a disorder. It is also difficult to get a diagnosis. Really, there's enough material for two memoirs here: one on childhood, and one on face-blindness. The jumping back and forth from childhood to adulthood was sometimes distracting. Like many other children of troubled parents Heather is still searching for their approval and love as an adult, which leads to problems with attachment and commitment. The best example of this is Sellers's unwillingness to share a home with her husband. Sometimes I found myself feeling the most empathy for Heather's husband. He seems to have put up with quite a bit, both in regard to his wife's commitment issues, and with his troublesome in-laws. This is not necessarily the best memoir I have ever read, but it does tackle interesting and rare subject matter, and I have certainly developed a new appreciation of how difficult it must be not to recognize others' faces.

Heather Sellers, You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know (Riverhead, 2010) ISBN: 

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