Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison



This book has been all over everyone's radar lately, from the folks at NPR to the folks at BookRiot to Ann and Michael at Books on the Nightstand. Since the three major sources of my reading material were all super positive, I borrowed it from my local library. Essentially, it seems, this book was born of the pain of others and the premise that experiencing the pain of others requires imagination and a leap of faith. It's all kinds of pain - physical, emotional, economic, mental, you name it. This book is a collection of essays that the author has penned over the last few years about pain and how people other than her experience it. She has lots of questions too: what do all these sorts of pain mean? What do we do about it?

Her focus seems to be the space between the person suffering the pain and the person who is observing the sufferer and how to bridge that gap. Her stories fill both categories: in two of them, she is the one that is suffering and needs empathy (in one because she's getting an abortion and in the other, heart surgery). In the others, she visits a conference for people that suffer from Morgellons and also, an ultramarathon (though not the same group of people!). In every case, she seemingly carefully notes the empathetic responses or lack thereof and the mechanisms. And she does a magnificent job - her imagery and metaphors are second to none.

Definitely worth the purchase

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