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A memoir of reinvention after a stroke at thirty-three, based on the author’s viral Buzzfeed essay
Christine Hyung-Oak Lee woke up with a headache on New Year’s Eve 2006. By that afternoon, she saw the world—quite literally—upside down. By New Year’s Day, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. And after hours in the ER, days in the hospital, and multiple questions and tests, she learned that she had had a stroke. For months, Lee outsourced her memories to her notebook. It is from these memories that she has constructed this frank and compelling memoir.
In a precise and captivating narrative, Lee navigates fearlessly between chronologies, weaving her childhood humiliations and joys together with the story of the early days of her marriage; and then later, in painstaking, painful, and unflinching detail, her stroke and every upset, temporary or permanent, that it causes.
Lee processes her stroke and illuminates the connection between memory and identity in an honest, meditative, and truly funny manner, utterly devoid of self-pity. And as she recovers, she begins to realize that this unexpected and devastating event provides a catalyst for coming to terms with her true self.
About the Author
Christine Hyung-Oak Lee is a writer who lives in Berkeley, California. Born in New York City, Christine earned her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and her M.F.A. at Mills College. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times and on BuzzFeed and the Rumpus, among other publications. She has been awarded a Hedgebrook residency, and her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
“A brave, encouraging, genuine work of healing discovery that shows us the ordinary, daily effort it takes to make a shattered self cohere.” — Floyd Skloot, author of In the Shadow of Memory
“The stuff of poetry and of nightmares… [Lee] investigates her broken brain with the help of a journal, beautifully capturing the helplessness, frustration, and comic absurdity (yes, a book about a stroke can be funny!) of navigating life after your world has been torn apart.” — Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire
“Lee excavates her life with the care of an archeologist in this stunning memoir...Her account is lyrical, honest, darkly comic, surprising, and transcendent in the way it redefines the importance of family history, memory, and what of it we choose to hold with us. A beautiful book.” — Christa Parravani, author of Her: A Memoir
“A searing memoir buoyed by hope.” — People
“This honest and meditative memoir is the story about how Hyung-Oak Lee rebuilt her life, quite literally one step at a time, and how she discovered the person she had always wanted to become.” — Refinery29.com
“Honest and insightful” — New York Times Book Review
“Emotionally explicit and intensely circumspect... . With careful thought and new understanding, the author explores the enduring mind-body connection with herself at the nexus of it all. A fascinating exploration of personal identity from a writer whose body is, thankfully, ‘no longer at war.’” — Kirkus Reviews
“Fearless... [Lee’s] engaging memoir...makes a difficult topic accessible and relatable. Lee expertly explains how the brain works and how even a damaged brain can adapt. Her narrative is both scientific and emotional, revealing the wonders of biology and the power of the human spirit.” — Booklist