Terry Galloway's lilting glissando of a memoir seduces. An actress, writer, and performance artist, she is delicious with words and has a scathing black humor that propels numerous laugh-out-loud delights. There is no political correctness here, only a poignant life journey of unexpected challenges.
Deafened by mycin antibiotics administered in utero, she hallucinated and had out of body experiences as a youngster, before her disability was discovered. Once diagnosed, she and her parents refused to let her be marginalized. A tough tomboy, she tumbles right along with neighborhood kids. This is not another heroic crip tale, but one told from the inside out, bridging to mainstream audiences.
At a summer camp for "crippled children," she feels superior to the "floaters" in the shallow end too disabled to swim alone. Her real competition, hilarious in exquisitely petty detail, is with "Blind Girl, One Leg, and me, Deafie." Desperate to be named best swimmer, she fakes her own drowning when she falls behind.
Her high school guidance counselor suggests factory work. She gets a scholarship to study theater at University of Texas instead. Here she is told she might wish to concentrate on costuming. She becomes a bawdy Shakespearian and a writer/performer in an alternative cabaret, all the while balancing myriad part-time jobs as dishwasher, busgirl, prep cook, children's TV series writer, housepainter, and unorthodox Santa.
As an aspiring actress, she moves to New York, but is lost and isolated, has a nervous breakdown, and spends six weeks in a psychiatric hospital. She immediately sets about organizing a talent show on the ward, harvesting rich performance material for later monologues. Eventually she finds artistic community at the legendary WOW café, P.S. 122, and the Woman's Project at American Place Theatre.
Throughout, polysexual exploits are meticulously rendered: "the threesomes, the foursomes, the sixsomes with the tinker, the tailor, the mescaline maker." Her joy is deliciously infectious when she meets her life partner Donna. Immediately she knew "we were going to be together for years on end. We'd live in a modest cottage in a pretty little college town where she would teach and I would piddle and we'd make art together with all our friends." Twenty years later, they live and work together in Tallahassee.
As an artist with a disability, Galloway was often asked to do community workshops for other disabled people. Initially she was completely inadequate: "If you can't get out of your chair or lift your hand higher than your waist, you can't do physical games I'd been taught to think essential to theater practice." In due course, she co-founds the acclaimed Actual Lives, a writing and performance program for people with disabilities.
Sharing her unvarnished journey, she reminds the reader, "there is no place for sentiment in the world of disabilities." Yet she offers hope and speaks for many who travel her path: "I feel the presence of something still unspoken or as yet unheard, and I feel it as an emptiness akin to hope. There are so many of us out here who don't know how to tell our own stories or make our own small triumphs compelling or simply convince others that we have souls as complex (or perhaps more so) as any movie star, politico, or prince of the realm."