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Leslie Jamison

The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison The Empathy Exams Essays
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Biographical note:

Leslie Jamison is the author of a novel, The Gin Closet, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her essays have appeared in Believer, Harper’s Magazine, Oxford American, and Tin House. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Main description:

From personal loss to phantom diseases, a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain—real and imagined, her own and others’—Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory—from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration—in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.

Review quote:

Praise for The Gin Closet
 
“Exquisitely beautiful.” —San Francisco Chronicle, Best Books of 2010
 
“A keenly felt [exploration of] love’s more complex geometries.” —Vogue

“Deft portraits like this will make Jamison a voice to pay attention to in the years to come.” —Bookforum

“An exquisite blues of a novel . . . Hauntingly beautiful.” —Booklist


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