Look Up for Yes

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9780140272826: Look Up for Yes

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.

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From the Author:

Wrting Look Up for Yes
I met Julia Tavalaro in the fall of 1991 when I was hired to teach a writing workshop at a New York City hospital. In 1993, after I was interviewed by Bill Moyers’ executive producer, I received a phone call from a New York Times reporter. I soon introduced this reporter to Julia. The outcome of this meeting was an article that partially documented Julia’s remarkable will to survive despite twenty-five years of physical, spiritual, and psychological trauma. After the Times article appeared, Julia and I began to write her autobiography. Using a letter board to communicate, we talked for more than fifteen hundred hours about her experiences in a public hospital. During the time it took to write this book, we were both pressed to our limits as writers and human beings. We each had our successes, too--publication of Julia’s poems in the Los Angeles Times and the publication of mine in the Paris Review and Pushcart Prize XXI. From the beginning I kept an intimate journal about what it was like to work with Julia, documenting the many obstacles and victories we experienced on our way to completing Look Up for Yes.

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Tavalaro, Julia, Tayson, Richard
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