Last fall I blogged about Sick Girl, a new book by Amy Silverstein excerpted in U.S. News, that looked back at nearly 20 years, often excruciating, with a transplanted heart. I posted a selection of the E-mails and comments that rolled in, most of them slamming her for ingratitude and immaturity. Finally, I put up Silverstein's response.
Sick Girl found an audience. Moreover, last night her story was selected as winner of the "first book" category in the "Books for a Better Life" annual awards sponsored by the New York chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The competition included books like surgeon Pauline Chen's Final Exam, an intensely personal exploration of the reluctance and awkwardness of many physicians, including herself, to connect with dying patients.
"I do think that the chatter has come full circle," Silverstein wrote in an E-mail to me, "culminating in an award that celebrates the book as one that makes a difference in people's lives. I couldn't feel more gratified and honored as an author and a human being."
"Over the past few months," she continued, "I have received hundreds of letters and emails from people who thank me for speaking their truth—a difficult truth about living with chronic illness. Seems lots of folks wear smiles and suffer silently with unending physical challenges because they feel that their friends, families, and even their doctors don't want to hear it. And, as we have both found through your column, they don't. 'Amy dear, shut up and take your medicine,' one blogger wrote to me in response to your initial blog. I have heard from so many people that it is the forced silence that makes their difficult journeys unbearable."
My Sick Girl-related posts have continued to attract comments, which, for reasons beyond my ability to grasp, strike a far different tone than most of those in last fall's outpouring. The vast majority laud Silverstein and her book for an honest, nuanced portrait of life with a transplanted organ. In the paperback version of the book, due out in September, Silverstein will append an afterword of several pages that addresses the public response to the book. How she handles her critics will be a fascinating read.