cover image Golem Girl: A Memoir

Golem Girl: A Memoir

Riva Lehrer. One World, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-1-984820-30-3

Painter Lehrer applies the same unflinching gaze for which her portraits are known to a lifetime with spina bifida in this trenchant debut memoir of disability and queer culture. Born in 1958, Lehrer was among the first to benefit from a surgical breakthrough that enabled doctors to save the lives of newborns with her condition. In the book’s first half, Lehrer recounts finding uninhibited joy with other disabled children at Cincinnati’s Condon School, as well as some unnecessary and ultimately harmful medical procedures she endured. At 21 and living in Chicago, she discovered an exuberant sexuality—one she believed wasn’t possible for her—and grappled with feeling marginalized due to her queerness. The book’s second half, however, loses some of the intimacy as Lehrer adopts a more didactic tone to describe a succession of relationships and document the rise of her career as an artist and the way her work explores the intersections of gender, sexuality, and disability (she includes photos and her own illustrations throughout). Lehrer notes that “international debates (such as those in Belgium and the Netherlands) persist over whether to treat infants like me at all,” and observes that “disability is the great billboard of human truth.... Add it to any discourse, and we can see what humanity truly values.” Readers will be sucked into Lehrer’s powerful memoir. [em](Oct.) [/em]