Look Up for Yes by Julia Tavalaro

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Thirty years ago, in the dead of winter, a beautiful young woman woke from a seven-month coma in a lonely hospital ward. But when she opened her eyes, no one noticed. Her entire body paralyzed by stroke, she tried to speak and no one heard. Thus her nightmare began. Gradually, Julia Tavalaro realized that not one of her doctors or caretakers was prepared to consider the possibility that the vital mind of a thirty-two-year-old woman existed inside the tiny, twisted body before them. Warehoused in a public hospital with other "incurables", she was known to all as "the vegetable". While she lay there, the Vietnam War raged and waned, a man walked on the moon, and an actor she knew from B-movies was elected president. In this vivid and moving memoir, Julia recounts her years in the prison of her body - the physical and emotional suffering and the realization that she had been abandoned by her family. Nearly broken by recurring bouts of pneumonia and fevers, and by the cruel and often abusive nurses who hated assuming responsibility for her life, Julia began to fight back. She unleashed a powerful rage, a biting, moaning, spitting offensive against those who expected little more from her than the sound of her breathing. Finally, in 1973, a young speech therapist named Arlene Kraat suspected Julia could comprehend what was happening around her. By asking her one simple question and telling her to respond with her eyes, she finally broke through Julia's isolation. With Arlene pointing to each letter on a letter board, Julia began to use her eyes to spell out her thoughts and relate the turmoil of her terrible years in captivity. Eventually, she began to compose poems that drew on the memories of her life before the stroke, reviving the aggressively sexual, daredevil life she had once lived and re-establishing her own sanity.

About Julia Tavalaro

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Richard Tayson's first book of poetry, The Apprentice of Fever (Kent State University Press, 1998), was the 1997 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize winner. Tayson's other awards include a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Prairie Schooner's Edward Stanley Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Tayson's coauthored book of nonfiction. Look Up for Yes (1998), appeared on bestseller lists in Germany and has been included in Reader's Digest's Today's Best Nonfiction in the United States, Germany, and Australia. He lives in Queens, New York.
Published April 1, 1997 by Kodansha America. 240 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Still paralyzed and mute, Tavalaro struggled to learn how to communicate, to gain the freedom of an electric wheelchair fitted to her needs, and to create a life of sorts within the confines of her deformed body and the often inhospitable hospital.

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Publishers Weekly

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In 1967, Tavalaro, a 33-year-old housewife and mother, awoke from a coma in Goldwater Memorial Hospital in New York City at least a year after two strokes, unable to speak and almost totally paralyzed.

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