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I Live a Life Like Yours

9780374600792 fc
Paperback, FSG Originals, 2021
Releases 08/17/21

A brilliantly rendered essayistic autobiography from an award-winning Norwegian author about life in a vulnerable body.

I am not talking about surviving. I am not talking about becoming human, but about how I came to realize that I had always already been human. I am writing about all that I wanted to have, and how I got it. I am writing about what it cost, and how I was able to afford it.

Jan Grue was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at the age of three. Shifting between specific periods of his life—his youth with his parents and sister in Norway; his years of study in Berkeley, St. Petersburg, and Amsterdam; and his current life as a professor, husband, and father—he intersperses these histories with elegant, astonishingly wise reflections on the world, social structures, disability, loss, relationships, and the body: in short, on what it means to be human. Along the way, Grue moves effortlessly between his own story and those of others, incorporating reflections on philosophy, film, art, and the work of writers from Joan Didion to Michael Foucault. He revives the cold, clinical language of his childhood, drawing from a stack of medical records that first forced the boy who thought of himself as “just Jan” to perceive that his body, and therefore his self, was defined by its defects.

I Live a Life Like Yours is a love story. It is rich with loss, sorrow, and joy, and with the details of one life: a girlfriend pushing Grue through the airport and forgetting him next to the baggage claim; schoolmates forming a chain behind his wheelchair on the ice one winter day; his parents writing desperate letters in search of proper treatment for their son; his own young son climbing into his lap as he sits in his wheelchair, only to leap down and run away too quickly to catch. It is a story about accepting one’s own body and limitations, and learning to love life as it is while remaining open to hope and discovery.

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  • “[Grue's] book—which doubles as a work of literary criticism and cultural history—is, yes, an elegant meditation on what it’s like to be a body that does not resemble most other bodies, but it’s also about aging, parenthood, memory, academia, and love. A tart and spare palate cleanser.”

    Molly Young, Vulture “A sensitive examination of the meaning of disability . . . Frank and often moving . . . Absorbing, insightful reflections on being human.”
  • “An elegant meditation on what it’s like to be a body that does not resemble most other bodies, but it’s also about aging, parenthood, memory, academia, and love. A tart and spare palate cleanser.”

    Molly Young, Vulture “A sensitive examination of the meaning of disability . . . Frank and often moving . . . Absorbing, insightful reflections on being human.”
  • "A tart and spare palate cleanser tucked into the feast of summer beach reads."

    --Molly Young, Vulture

  • "Grue elegantly flows between memoir, essay, and intellectual discourse in this magnificent story about living with a disability . . He brilliantly articulates what it’s like to be 'erased and rewritten,' and, more poignantly, what it’s like to obliterate the narrative one’s been handed. This stunning work isn’t to be missed."

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)