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Summary

The Camera My Mother Gave Me takes us through Susanna Kaysen's often comic, sometimes surreal encounters with all kinds of doctors: internists, gynecologists, "alternative health" experts, as well as with her boyfriend and her friends, when suddenly, inexplicably, "something went wrong" with her vagina.

The title comes from Luis Bunuel's film Viridiana. Some peasants are at a banquet in a country mansion. They ask a maid to take a group snapshot, and she obliges, lifting up her skirt and using the "camera" that's underneath.

Kaysen's The Camera My Mother Gave Me observes what happens when sexual pleasure is replaced by pain. "When eros goes away," she writes, "it's as if I'm colorblind. The world is gray." But is this a problem of body, or mind? And can clinicians tease out the difference between the two?

Spare, frank, and altogether original, The Camera My Mother Gave Me challenges us to think in new ways about the centrality and power of sexuality. It is an extraordinary investigation into the role sex plays in perception and our notions of ourselves, and into what happens when the erotic impulse meets the world of medicine.

©2001 Susanna Kaysen (P)2006 Phoenix Audio

Critic reviews

"Thoughts on sexuality, love, trust, femininity, age, self-image, and the wisdom of the body radiate out from her pain like rays from the sun, touching her rapt, sympathetic, and often amused readers with the heat and light of her hard-won insights and candor." ( Booklist)

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  • Taylor
  • 08-08-16

Kaysen's Performance is a Delight

Would you consider the audio edition of The Camera My Mother Gave Me to be better than the print version?

Absolutely. I love when the author also narrates the audiobook because you can get a real sense for what they wanted to say.

What did you like best about this story?

This book was so much different than "Girl, Interrupted." The plot was more chronologically in order, and you get more of an idea who she is without many extra characters. This is a woman that I would love to invite over for dinner to discuss how she gets from McLean to The Camera!

What about Susanna Kaysen’s performance did you like?

Kaysen's performance really characterizes this book. Her matter-of-fact way of delivering detailed descriptions about a pretty intimate condition communicates her puzzled and flabbergasted discomfort.

Any additional comments?

I can't believe anyone ever told her to insert boric acid into her vagina. Insane!