|Disability Studies Quarterly
Fall 2005, Volume 25, No. 4
Copyright 2005 by the Society
for Disability Studies
Funhouse Mirrors and Freak Show Dreams:
Construction of Narrative Voice in Terry Healey's At Face Value
Catherine Scott, Ph.D. Candidate
This article studies Terry Healey's 2001 memoir At Face Value using a combination of autobiography theory and narrative theory. I argue that examining narrative voice reveals the different ways disabled individuals, marked as freaks by mainstream American society, can make their voices heard in and through the writing process. In this particular case, I argue that Healey's narrative voice reveals both an overtly masculine identity, as well as a nostalgic sense of self that longs for his previous able-body.
Keywords: Memoir, biography, narrative theory, disfigurement, freaks, ugly laws
"I would prefer death to living through the rest of life being deformed," explains Terry Healey at the beginning of his memoir of disability (2001, p. 37). Voicing what many people believe regarding disability and deformity, that death would be preferable to freakery, Healey explores what it means to be marked by his visible difference. Rosemarie Garland Thomson (1997) writes extensively about the way disabled people have been portrayed and decried in American society; she explains "Scrupulously described, interpreted, and displayed, the bodies of the severely congenitally disabled have always functioned as icons upon which people discharge their anxieties, convictions and fantasies" (p. 56). In addition to the congenitally disabled, however, are those who bodies have been marked by trauma, resulting in serious deformities or disabilities. These individuals must not only struggle with the label of freak, but must also come to terms with the way in which their bodily traumas have radically transformed their previously held identities.
Healey's At Face Value is a little-known, vanity-press memoir that addresses the author's shift from beauty to disfigurement following surgery for a facial sarcoma. Healey examines what it means to live with what Susan Wendell (1996) terms a "disability of appearance" (p. 44). While Healey certainly experiences physical pain, emotional hardship and a certain level of impairment from his facial disfigurement, his facial disability exemplifies Wendell's notion of a disability "constructed totally by stigma and cultural meanings" (p. 44). That is to say that while Healey is capable of eating, exercising, working, and speaking, despite his disfigurement, he is still labeled and marked as a disabled freak due to his appearance, thereby illustrating the difference between physical impairment and socially constructed disability.
The disabled memoirist, however, is afforded the chance to repair the psychic self by exploring the body as a domain of self-expression, by interrogating its cultural meanings, and by looking for methods to assuage the enormous anxiety surrounding the traumatized body. By engaging with the cultural values ascribed to American standards of normalcy and beauty, the memoirist exposes the various ways in which his or her body has been reduced, neglected and rejected. In his memoir, Healey engages in a negotiation with the discourses surrounding ugliness and the self. Throughout the text, Healey confronts not only his ever-changing appearance and the meaning this has for his self, but also the varied responses and judgments cast upon him by people in the American cultural context in which he lives.
Narrative and Voice
Healey's confrontation with judgment, scorn, and pity is realized through the construction of a unique narrative voice in his memoir. He creates his voice as an expression of self in the text. Analyzing voice means paying attention not just to who speaks and what is said, but how it is said, how the narrator negotiates tone, attitude towards the implied reader, distance and intimacy, as well as the level and type of diction employed in the text. James Phelan (1996) argues: "Voice is as much a social phenomenon as it is an individual one. Voice is the fusion of style, tone and values" (p. 44-45). Phelan reinforces the idea that "Voice is typically a mechanism (. . .) for influencing its audience's responses to and understanding of the characters and events that are the main focus of the narrative" (p. 48). Voice, then, helps determine the complex relationships between the author, the various autobiographical "I"s in the text and the narratee.
In order to analyze the narrative voice that Healy constructs in his memoir, I employ three of MAK Halliday's (1985) process types. Material processes contain a central agent who performs the action (processes of doing); mental processes involve two central participants — a processor and a phenomenon (processes of sensing, perspective, verbal, or creative); Relational processes involve identification, possession, and location (processes of being) and involve the sense of self through verbs such as be, have, seem, and appear. Analyzing the process types in the text allows for greater knowledge of how language constructs experience.
Moreover, the interplay between Halliday's processes and autobiography theory of the self offers a deeper understanding of the author's style of voice, where and how he finds a sense of agency, and the image that is projected by and through the created voice on the page. While Healey is marginalized due to his disfigurement, the voice he creates in his memoir grants him both discursive legitimacy and increased cultural capital. Healey crafts his narrative voice to address the disparity between his sense of self and the reaction he receives from his family, friends, and strangers. In analyzing Healey's voice, what becomes apparent is that Healey's identity is at once nostalgic (longing for his past self and his past face) and idealistic (believing that through love and self-belief, he can achieve the American dream).
American Ugly Laws
Historically, branches of United States government have sought to remove and segregate those who do not fit in to the cultural norms of the time period. In the 19th and 20th centuries, several U.S. cities and various states enforced aptly named "Ugly Laws," which were designed to prevent visibly disabled people from appearing in public places. In their article, "A History of Unequal Treatment: The Qualifications of Handicapped Persons as a Suspect Class Under the Equal Protection Clause," Marcia Pearce Bugdorf and Robert Bugdorf Jr. (1975) review the history of legislation dealing with disabled people in the United States. Burgdorf and Burgdorf cite the 1911 Chicago city ordinance which states: "No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense" (p. 868). The importance of sight in designating what is disgusting or grotesque in the public sphere is highlighted in the law's language. As well, the unsightly or deformed individual is deemed not only "disgusting," but is viewed, under this law, as an object or an improper person. The subject's agency is completely revoked and the disabled person is transformed into a source of disgust and horror. Further, the law makes a connection between affronting the public's view and exacting a monetary penalty. Given that disabled people have typically been barred or drastically limited from obtaining gainful employment, these fines add further injury given that there is little chance the individual could actually afford the stiff penalty; the fines then further the chance that disabled people will be sent to jail, thus placing them under the watchful eye of the law, and out of sight from the American public.
While these laws have since been repealed, in an increasingly scopophilic culture, those who fall into the artificially created class of the ugly and disfigured may retreat from the public space due to the perception that they are freaks who invite stares from onlookers. When out in public, those with visible disabilities are continually confronted by the stares of the people around them. The facially disfigured, in particular, are vulnerable to the stare, which Garland Thomson argues is "the gaze intensified, framing [the disabled person's] body as an icon of deviance" (p. 26). Having left the literal freak shows of the 19th and 20th century behind, the disabled person is still vulnerable to the intense stare of the public, which reads his or her body as abhorrent, horrifying, and fearful. In response to the stare, and its dehumanizing effects, disabled people must find methods to decrease the power of the stare and to be seen and heard as complex, multivalent subjects, rather than as the sum of their disfigured parts.
Healey's Narrative Voice
One of the major methods for refuting the stare is developed by writing one's own memoir as a disabled person. Telling one's personal story of dealing with daily problems, issues, and adventures that are connected with facial disfigurement is one way to mitigate or neutralize the stare. Language, versus visual image, becomes the focus and the author's story takes center stage, rather than his or her face. The point of view shifts from their "to-be-looked-at-ness" (Mulvey, 1989, p. 114) to their "to-be-listened-to-ness."
The question then is not who sees, but rather who speaks? In Recovering Bodies, G. Thomas Couser (1997) argues:
Healey is engaged in finding his own voice in the text, in reframing his own personal response to the trauma that resulted in the disability, and in influencing the audience's perception of a person with a facial disability. Thus, Healey's memoir affords the author the opportunity to shift the focus from the stare that freezes him as an object to the voice that alternately reconnects, reconstructs, and reinvents him as a multiply designated subject.
Healey's Desire to be "Streetable"
Healey's decision to write and publish his memoir is influenced, in part, by his desire to be more than simply "streetable" (p. 148); he wants, once again, to be presentable and powerful in American mainstream society. The term "streetable" is used by Healey's doctor to reassure him, upon release from the hospital, that his face has reached an acceptable level of normativity. However, what his doctor believes to be acceptable, and what Healey sees in his own reflection are two different things. The use of the term "streetable" clearly harkens back to the Ugly Laws of America's past; Healey must reach a minimum standard of appearance before he is allowed back into the public domain. Healey quickly learns, however, that to be "streetable" is not enough; while he may not be subject to monetary fines, he is still subject to the stares and ridicule of those who see his face.
His memoir, then, is one method for shifting the focus away from his current face, to the message that he wants to tell others, so that they may learn from his traumatic experience. In order to feel as though he belongs once again, in order to be more than simply "streetable," Healey turns to his memoir as a method for letting his voice be heard. After all, the ideological "I" in this text, is used to being listened to rather than being stared at or silenced. The narrative voice that he crafts in this text, an active, masculine, productive voice, on the surface seems to help Healey not only deal with his changed status from able-bodied to disabled, but also demonstrates the power of his narrative voice to craft a positive self-image in a public forum.
However, what Healey the narrator intends for his implied reader and what is received by his actual reader are not always the same. What is most striking in Healey's memoir is that when he is at his most physically disabled and, therefore, most vulnerable, his narrating "I" is also at its most overtly masculine.
Conversely, the more clearly he realizes that he can never recapture his dominant position in society due to his permanently disfigured appearance, and that getting "back to Terry" is now impossible, the faster he shuts down his narrative. Healey, then, constructs an overtly masculine voice in order (a) to compensate for his now feminized status as weak and disabled and (b) to attempt to hold onto remnants of his self from the past. However, in doing so, Healey reveals gaps and points of slippage throughout the text that undermine the efficacy of the image he wants to portray. Ultimately, while the voice he creates furthers his "to-be-listened-to-ness," in some respects, the cracks in the text and unintentionally ironic moments reveal both a more multidimensional and a more vulnerable Healey throughout the text.
Healey's Material Processes
Throughout the early sections of his memoir, Healey's narrative voice is primarily centered on what linguist MAK Halliday calls material processes or verbs of "doing" that reinforce Healey's image of himself as active, progressive, and productive. Analyzing the process types in Healey's memoir allows for a detailed understanding of when, where, and how Healey shifts between material, mental and relational processes throughout the text, and the way in which his narrated "I" is often at with the determined, masculine image he strives to create. Healey begins his memoir by describing how his initial diagnosis of cancer was "to be the biggest challenge of my life so far" (p. 17). More important, however, is Healey's assertion that he will conquer this challenge: "I was going to fight it and beat it and I couldn't wait to start" (p. 18). The material processes of fighting and beating serve to reinforce Healey's self as masculine, and agentic; he is not willing to give-in without a fight. His verb choices position him in the powerful role of challenger to cancer, rather than victim of disease. His narrated "I" is strong, athletic, resourceful and, above all, invulnerable to a life-threatening disease.
However, the narrating "I" of Healey's text is much older and can look back on his younger, eager, brash self and recognize his earlier self as full of conquering spirit. Healey displays what Ann Hunsaker Hawkins (1993) observes to be: "The habit of associating military metaphors with disease and therapy is one that is reinforced by social and political factors. One is the typically American blending of an aggressive stance with an almost naïve social optimism" (p. 64). Hunsaker Hawkins goes on to explain that for the military myth "to function in an enabling way, requires certain conditions surrounding the illness: there must be an adversary, an enemy 'other,' something that can be identified, measured, and then combated" (p. 69). Accordingly, he must never surrender his position in the battle, and must rage on until the war against his cancer is won.
Calling on metaphors of battle to bolster his damaged self, Healey both connects to masculine imagery, as well as to popular tropes regarding disease and infirmity (if you surrender, you are weak and the disease has won). Healey's clichéd choice of metaphor emphasizes the notion that while sick and disabled people are often prone to surrender and weakness, he believes in his own power not to allow this disease to overtake his strong will. His self-assurance reveals how often he has been used to winning, to achieving, and to reveling in success in the past.
Beyond his adoption of military metaphors, Healey argues that he is personally responsible for his own illness. Healey's optimistic narrative voice consistently returns to the rhetoric of self-help; he is anxious not only to demonstrate his personal agency, but also to offer his story as a source of inspiration and example to others. He explains how if he had "allowed" (p. 43) cancer into his own body, then certainly he has the necessary power to "expel" (p. 43) the cancer. Healey is convinced that there is a causal link between personal belief systems and diseases of the body. That is, if he is positive and optimistic, he will be able to heal his own body.
The material processes he employs here serve to reinforce, once again, Healey's construction of a masculine, powerful voice; it is the voice of someone who is used to being listened to and obeyed. His self-assurance reveals how often he has been used to winning, to achieving, and to reveling in success in the past. This time, however, he believes he can order his cancer to leave his body simply through his formidable force of will. Hunsaker Hawkins argues: "The assumption that the body has innate healing capacities and that there is a causal link between mental and physical phenomena liberates sick persons from the role of passive dependence required of a 'patient' in the biomedical model, transforming them into active agents whose vigorous physical participation is essential to energize those mysterious healing forces within" (p. 129). Given that passive dependence is signified as both feminine and negative, Healey responds to his being cast in this role with a rigorous and active defense of his own body against the cancerous intruder; he does so by employing material processes to aid in his strategy of defense, thereby linguistically fortifying the link between his current disabled self and his past able-bodied self.
Repeatedly, Healey discusses how in order to cope with the shift in his health he needs to become "busier" (p. 22) and more "productive" (p. 22). The rhetoric of American productivity is found throughout Healey's text; he believes not only that self-pity is a sign of weakness, but also that keeping busy is an effective coping mechanism whenever faced with other's judgments of his appearance. Initially, he explains how he "wasn't going to let cancer make any difference" (p. 22) in his life, other than as a catalyst towards positive change. His belief in his own personal power to control his body's response to disease is an exemplary Western construct of the self.
Following his first bout with cancer, Healey describes how he focused upon "appreciating each day" (p. 29), and taking "control of [his] life" (p. 29). The removal of the initial tumor allows Healey to remain convinced of his own masculine ability to control his body and heal himself. Despite his belief in his own agency, however, Healey's cancer returns in a more virulent form less than a year after his initial operation. In describing his feelings post-diagnosis, Healey underscores the ideology that people with disabilities are losers in life when he details how the eventual return of cancer made him feel like he had "been cut from the team, or given an "F" by the teacher. It made me feel like a loser" (p. 117). His belief in self-control and producing his own outcome is precisely what leads him to offer this low self-appraisal.
Healey's Mental Processes
This shift is further signaled by his employment of more mental processes in place of material processes during this section of the memoir. Mental processes involve both a processor and a phenomenon that is being mentalized; these processes involve reactions, perspectives, and cognitions. In response, then, to the return of his cancer, Healey's heroic narrative falters and his intense emotions and feelings of loss become more prominent in the text. Healey's narrating "I" reinforces this transition when he explains how his "greatest fear was that people would think of [him] as a bum without hope" (p. 172). Fear has overtaken Healey in this section, and he conflates his physiognomy with his perceived productivity, instinctively understanding that the two are, indeed, linked in the United States. To Healey, he has been transformed into a loser in the competitive, capitalist dream (despite being lucky enough to retain his position at the law firm where he works during the school year). In the latter half of his memoir, when he is faced with the assumed horror of physical deformity, Healey reveals, through his mental processes, a shift in his voice from that of a young man full of bravado to a conflicted man full of fear and concern.
After his first major reconstructive operation, Healey returns home to confront his own preconceptions surrounding a worthwhile life in the United States. When he returns to his fraternity house, he overhears one of his housemates describing how "if it were him who had what I had, he would either have lived in a closet or hung himself" (p. 215). Early on in the memoir, Healey makes a similar assertion: "I would prefer [death] to living through the rest of my life being deformed" (p. 37). Healey's initial assertion is that death is preferable to deformity: better to be dead than to be ugly in Healey's world. The mental process of his preference for death reveals a point of slippage in the text as this assertion stands in contrast to Healey's earlier repetition of material processes to reinforce his agency. His feelings, however, are voiced through his narrating "I" in a way that his narrated "I" never dared to do in public. Despite echoing his own sentiments from before his operation, Healey tends to lump all those who do not subscribe to his optimistic outlook or who ask startlingly frank questions about his disfigurement as being "evil" (p. 136) or "like the devil" (p. 95).
Healey's willingness to cast people who do not immediately accept him as the "handsome, normal-looking Terry" (p. 131) is a somewhat ironic reversal of the traditional role assigned to disabled and disfigured people. Early on, disabled figures were "read as divine retribution for some nameless sin" (Garland Thomson p. 50). While Healey may feel like a loser for allowing cancer to invade his body a second time, the attribution of evil is deflected onto others who critique him and seek to ascribe him as an icon of deviance. Because Healey is used to speaking from a position of power, he attempts to challenge the way in which he is labeled by deflecting the proverbial evil eye and re-casting the able-bodied as devils for holding questionable and limiting views of his now disfigured body. In the past, disabled people were thought to reflect inner rot in their outer appearances; in this instance, Healey attributes inner evil to those who use negative language, rather than those who have an ugly appearance. Throughout his memoir, Healey does little to challenge the views of able-bodied people and, instead, expends tremendous effort resisting identification with disabled people while, at the same time, striving to regain his place of privilege in society despite his changed appearance.
Healey's Implied Reader
In part, Healey's resistance to a direct challenge of dominant beliefs regarding disfigurement and disability is due to his construction of the narratee. Healey does not want to distance himself from his implied reader who is someone much like himself before the time of trauma: young, male, and able-bodied; this is signaled throughout the text by his attempts to (a) create an image of masculine strength and resiliency in the face of difficult circumstances and (b) foster sympathy and understanding from his ideal reader for the trauma he has experienced.
As well, his problematic constructions of women as care-giving, sexualized objects come across as a metaphorical "high-five" to his implied reader. Throughout the text, Healey appeals to his reader's sense of sympathy and often calls upon the narratee to identify with him through clichéd phrases regarding life's journey, the battle against illness, and the struggle to overcome his disability. However, even when he tries to appeal to the reader's emotional side, by describing how he cried alone in his room after his second diagnosis, Healey is careful to situate the context in order not to undermine his own masculine status: He cried alone.
Beyond his appeals to a young, male reader, in many ways, Healey appears to be writing to the self that once was, the Terry Healey of the past, in order to re-connect with a self that is now lost. That being said, as different discourses emerge and retreat in the text, Healey's attempt to control both the construction and the reception of his identity becomes increasingly difficult given that his actual reader (in this case, me) does not placidly accept the production and transmission of his ideological representation of self.
One of the ways in which Healey's construction of the implied reader, and the reception of his text by the actual reader is called into question, concerns his assurance of his rightful place in American society. Healey's adherence to the dominant is both reified and called into question when Healey's narrated and narrating "I" reveal questionable attributions regarding women throughout the text. The way in which Healey both idealizes and disrespects women, looking to them both to reassure him of his own attractiveness while looking after his damaged body, underscores his presumption of power as a white male. Prior to his operation to remove the tumor, Healey goes out on the town and notices several attractive women (or "pretty girls" as he terms them). He slowly realizes that he is "judging people based on their looks. How could I still think that way, knowing I was going to be disfigured? I decided not to ponder that question too deeply that night" (p. 79).
However, Healey never truly considers this question at any point throughout the memoir. In part, this is due to the way Healey's masculine narrative voice continually returns to material processes to reinforce his bravado and his sense of agency. Healey argues that "being in the hospital wasn't so bad after all" (p. 87) once he realizes he is being looked after by a dark-haired nurse with a "pretty face" (p. 87). Once again, Healey fails to deconstruct the irony of his admiration for her pretty face when his own face has just changed dramatically. His unintended irony marks slippages between the narrating "I" and the narrated "I". Rather than conveying the cool, masculine, heroic image he holds of himself, Healey's double articulation undermines his presentation and marks a major distinction between the implied reader or narratee and the actual reader of the memoir.
Throughout his stint in the hospital, Healey continually returns to sports metaphors when he finds out he has another "young, cute nurse" (p. 98); to Healey, this means he has "scored again" (p. 99). He goes on to explain how "lucky [he] had been to be cared for by an entourage of pretty, young nurses" (p. 209) versus the older, less attractive (and also "grumpier," according to Healey) nurses he encounters at other hospitals later on in his reconstructive process. While the feeling of luck is the primary emotion Healey describes, he also reveals an undertone of entitlement to these pretty women. That is, in the past, he has always had access to the world of attractive women; following his surgery, he continues to believe that these women are there for his own pleasure and desire. Concerned that he might get an erection during a shower from one of his nurses, his brother assures Healey that "she'd probably be flattered" (p. 102). While certainly trying to reassure his older brother that he is still an attractive, desirable man, Healey's brother reinforces the sexist views Healey holds of women. Those who care for him are thought to be more competent, more thoughtful if they are also attractive. Thus, Healey himself makes the attribution error of connecting physical attractiveness with competency and productivity for others that he would be loathe to have placed on his own self.
Healey is engaged in deciding who is and is not beautiful around him; however, due to his facial disfigurement, he is forced to confront whether he himself will now count as one of the "beautiful ones" or whether he will be stared at as freak, unworthy of love or sexual attraction. Although Healey reinforces women's powerlessness every time he dismisses his nurses as nothing more than attractive body parts, his own condition has markedly feminized his body in the social world by rendering him less powerful and less able to make his voice rather than his face the focal point for other people.
To some extent, Healey's concentration on his nurses' appearance smacks of overcompensation. That is, in order to prove that he is a healthy, heterosexual male who has not been damaged by his disease or his disfigurement, he must continually sexualize his relationships with the women who are working to care for him. To do otherwise, in his social context of fraternities and brotherhood, is to risk infantilization by the women who bathe him and dress his wounds. Moreover, because he is now disfigured, Healey experiences a serious shift in his confidence and self-assurance; "[he is convinced] no young woman would find [him] attractive anymore" (p. 188) as a result of his face. Healey writes: "Before all the surgery, I used to enjoy the looks I got in elevators, especially from women [. . . ] My biggest fear had now become that same stare or look from a woman" (p. 173). While his mental process used to be one of feeling pleasure at being looked upon, the process has now become one of fear. Here, Healey touches briefly on his legitimate fear that rather than being viewed as a masculine subject of desire, he will be viewed as a feminized object of freakery. His memoir, as a result, is one way for him to construct his reaction to his deformity, to deal with the trauma he has experienced, and to mitigate reactions to his changed appearance, not only by admitting to fear of the stare, but also by attempting to emphasize his masculinity throughout the text (thereby highlighting his own powerful, patriarchal voice).
Healey's Nostalgic Voice
Healey repeatedly reveals a decidedly nostalgic edge as he repeatedly reveals a longing for his lost self. Healey's overwhelming urge to recover his previous self is deeply intertwined with his desire to recover his previous, unmarked face. Throughout the memoir, Healey repeatedly stressed the importance of getting "back to Terry as soon as [possible]" (p. 121). He experiences feelings of sorrow and despair when he realizes he is "no longer the handsome, normal-looking Terry" (p. 131) of the past; the vision he is confronted with, instead, is one that is not "normal", that risks ridicule and disdain, and one that does not conform to society's expectations for success. His voice takes on a distressed tone that works against his desire to present a firm image of bravery throughout the memoir. Instead, Healey is "suddenly [. . . ] somebody completely different" (p. 138) and he is unsure of how to reconcile his vision of his self with how he looks, as a result of his ever-shifting disfigurement. Healey is profoundly trusting of his doctors who assure him that "with reconstruction, [he] would be 'Terry' again" (p. 159). Healey consistently repeats his desire to get "back to Terry" (p. 218), to be "Terry Healey again" (p. 222), to be "the old Terry" (p. 242), and the only method he can see for recovering his old self is through restoring his face to its old dimension.
In these repeated invocations, Healey's style of referencing himself in the third person signals both a shift in his narrative voice from the rallying cry for battle that he has previously employed, to a nostalgic and grief-stricken voice, as well as emphasizing the distance he feels between his current self with the damaged face and his previous self with the attractive image. The frequency with which Healey repeats this mantra is notable not only for how clearly Healey holds onto the past (what is old is valued), but also for how negatively he equates his narrated self as provisional and contingent on reconstruction of his face. Healey's narrating "I" argues that his self will only be this way temporarily, and once his face has been restored to its previous appearance, his self will be restored as well. In response to his fears of public repudiation and ridicule, Healey argues: "because it was my face, my identity, it hurt that much more" (p. 176). Instinctively, Healey comprehends the importance of the face in American society: The face equals identity. How he carries himself, whether he looks people in the eye, the symmetry of his facial structure, all impact, to some extent, whether he is viewed as successful, employable, trustworthy, attractive and productive.
Throughout the memoir, Healey concentrates on a return to a previous, more innocent, less difficult time wherein his face was attractive and, therefore, his self was unreflexively intact. Now, however, Healey casts his self as a freak because his face has been radically altered. Garland Thomson explains: "Freaks are above all products of perception: they are the consequence of a comparative relationship in which those who control the social discourse and the means of representation recruit the seeming truth of the body to claim the center for themselves and banish others to the margins" (p. 62). Having come from the center and previously having claim to the dominant social discourse, Healey understands that he is banished to the margins due to his current freakish appearance. His memoir betrays his struggle with the knowledge that he has lost the previous Terry Healey; while he can never truly recover his previous self, the voice he tries to creates in and through this memoir, that of a masculine, brave (often cocky) man is his attempt to hang onto his position of privilege. Having come from the privileged center, and finding himself cast out into the filed of cultural otherness, Healey is in a unique position to comment not only upon his own trauma, but also the way in which his physical reconstruction is connected to his psychic reconstruction of the self.
Yet, to fully acknowledge his damaged status would reveal too much weakness; as a result, he clings to clichés and problematic conceptions of others in order to mimic the dominant position he once held. His resistance to looking beyond simplistic personal attributions is connected to his desire to "get back to Terry." By refusing to look beyond his stagnant vision of his self until the end of his memoir, Healey reinforces his previous and now lost attachment to the dominant rather than all he holds in common with dominated disabled people.
Near the end of Healey's memoir, the narrative speeds up and makes huge leaps in discourse time. Healey lands a job. Healey finds a girlfriend. Healey gets married. Healey discovers inner peace and brings the memoir to an abrupt close. Healey writes: "Marrying Sue changed everything. I closed the chapter in my life about my cancer and my personal struggles and insecurities. I suppose I will always be conscious of my defects, but I have learned to accept who I am" (p. 268). Healey underscores the importance narrating his life when he describes how he "closed the chapter in [his] life" following his marriage. The process of how Healey reached acceptance of his place in life is not detailed or explored in the text; instead, Healey argues that the simple addition of a good woman's love has redeemed him from his terrible fate, and he has been able to move forward rather than always looking back to his past self. Rather than harkening back to the Terry Healey he "was" in the past, he now accepts the Terry Healey he "is" in the present. However, his use of the term "acceptance" implied resignation rather than confident appropriation. As well, his marriage to a woman is what has ostensibly allowed him to feel more masculine, less feminized as a result of his appearance.
The acceptance and love come from an outside force (his wife) and these elements serve both to bolster his sense of self and to act as contrasting influences to his own sense of self-loathing. Healey claims he is now at peace with his self-image, and he closes his memoir with an admonition to his readers to consider that "it is the internal and not the eternal fabric that makes up the human spirit. It is what lies beneath our skin that makes us unique. If each of us could focus on looking beyond the color of someone's skin or the appearance of someone's body or face, and instead focus on the person inside, our world would become a happier and more peaceful place" (p. 268). Healey's remarkably naïve and well-intentioned message also points to his own deficiencies. He, himself, has not been able to look past the beauty of women's faces to the "person inside" and so his message opens the memoir to the question of how does a culture that focuses on the face, move beyond the face to concentrate on what lies beneath? What about those disabled people without attractive, loving partners to complete their sense of self? Healey's text raises these questions, but does little to address them in their complexity.
Ultimately, Healey's memoir leaves the reader with more unanswered questions than thoughtful answers about how he has dealt with his personal trauma and the after-effects of his disfigurement. In some respects, Healey makes his voice heard, even seeking out the literal manifestation of offering public speaking seminars; yet his pat ending to his life narrative does not reveal the strong, powerful self that he attempts to craft in his memoir, but rather yields a more fragile, nostalgic self who longs for what can no longer be.
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Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ) is the journal of the Society for Disability Studies (SDS). It is a multidisciplinary and international journal of interest to social scientists, scholars in the humanities and arts, disability rights advocates, and others concerned with the issues of people with disabilities. It represents the full range of methods, epistemologies, perspectives, and content that the field of disability studies embraces. DSQ is committed to developing theoretical and practical knowledge about disability and to promoting the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society. (ISSN: 1041-5718; eISSN: 2159-8371)