Author: Riva Lehrer
Publisher: One World
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Book Description: What do we sacrifice in the pursuit of normalcy? And what becomes possible when we embrace monstrosity? Can we envision a world that sees impossible creatures?
In 1958, amongst the children born with spina bifida is Riva Lehrer. At the time, most such children are not expected to survive. Her parents and doctors are determined to “fix” her, sending the message over and over again that she is broken. That she will never have a job, a romantic relationship, or an independent life. Enduring countless medical interventions, Riva tries her best to be a good girl and a good patient in the quest to be cured.
Everything changes when, as an adult, Riva is invited to join a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building Disability Culture. Their work is daring, edgy, funny, and dark—it rejects tropes that define disabled people as pathetic, frightening, or worthless. They insist that disability is an opportunity for creativity and resistance. Emboldened, Riva asks if she can paint their portraits—inventing an intimate and collaborative process that will transform the way she sees herself, others, and the world. Each portrait story begins to transform the myths she’s been told her whole life about her body, her sexuality, and other measures of normal.
Written with the vivid, cinematic prose of a visual artist, and the love and playfulness that defines all of Riva’s work, Golem Girl is an extraordinary story of tenacity and creativity. With the author’s magnificent portraits featured throughout, this memoir invites us to stretch ourselves toward a world where bodies flow between all possible forms of what it is to be human.
Rating: 4 Stars
Review: A Golum in Jewish folklore is an anthropormorphic being that is formed from inanimate matter. Lehrer is born with Spina Bifida and has always considered herself a Golum of sorts. She was born at a time when most doctors and families would make their child comfortable and let them pass from this world. However, her parents who had long awaited for a child spend their lives doing everything they can to save her.
Riva Lehrer, is an artist that transforms the page with her words. This is not the easiest of memoirs to read. Part 1 depicts a very hard childhood, with many surgeries, bullying, her mom’s pain and depression. Part 2 we get Riva as an adult, who is now exploring her art, sexuality and her continued illness.
This book is the story of one of the strongest woman you will meet. She is not perfect, and I loved her all the more for it. Art is not my wheelhouse, however, she does a wonderful job integrating the two mediums together. This is simply beautiful and I am so glad I go the opportunity to read this.
Thank you NetGalley and One World for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.