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A Certain Loneliness: A Memoir (American Lives ) (Paperback)
After contracting polio as a child, Sandra Gail Lambert progressed from braces and crutches to a manual wheelchair to a power wheelchair—but loneliness has remained a constant, from the wild claustrophobia of a child in body casts to just yesterday, trapped at home, gasping from pain. A Certain Loneliness is a meditative and engaging memoir-in-essays that explores the intersection of disability, queerness, and female desire with frankness and humor.
Lambert presents the adventures of flourishing within a world of uncertain tomorrows: kayaking alone through swamps with alligators; negotiating planes, trains, and ski lifts; scoring free drugs from dangerous men; getting trapped in a too-deep snow drift without crutches. A Certain Loneliness is literature of the body, palpable and present, in which Lambert’s lifelong struggle with isolation and independence—complete with tiresome frustrations, slapstick moments, and grand triumphs—are wound up in the long history of humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Purchase the audio edition.
About the Author
Sandra Gail Lambert is a writer of both fiction and memoir. She is the author of The River’s Memory. She was awarded an NEA fellowship based on an excerpt from A Certain Loneliness.
"The author knows herself well and shares thoughts, feelings, and impressions with grace and acute self-awareness. Readers will come away with a cleareyed portrait of the author through the stories of her joys, sorrows, and intimate impressions. A powerful testimony to the determination and strength necessary to persevere despite assumptions, scrutiny, and societal stigmatization."—Kirkus
"A Certain Loneliness is an intriguing memoir. . . . Lambert's lessons in how she lives, how difficult every motion is when her body grows less and less useful every year, are enlightening, perhaps even necessary, for able-bodied readers. . . . That Lambert's is a vanishing condition makes her perspective unusual, but the frustration and emotional turmoil she suffers are perfectly common. Such results could stand to be better understood by the friends and loved ones of people with these conditions—or by anyone who has ever hugged a woman in a wheelchair without permission."—Katharine Coldiron, River Teeth
"A Certain Loneliness is Lambert's wry, unstinting look at a life spent dealing with chronic pain and having a visibly imperfect body. . . . Lambert's body is the topography of her everyday travels. She's a sobering guide."—Nell Beram, Shelf Awareness
"While Lambert's memoir shows us one woman's strength and courage in her battle to defeat fear, loneliness, and physical challenge, I'd like think this book offers more. It should make each of us question: do we build ramps for those differently able or do we simply ignore the problem and look away?"—Debbie Hagan, Brevity
"Lambert's sensuous writing is not unlike the water she returns to again and again: fluid yet direct, supple and strong. A Certain Loneliness is about the failure and triumph of the body—in Lambert's life the former has often preceded the latter—and while her work is an important addition to the canon of disability studies, it should not be pigeon-holed as such. Lambert writes with a studied aloofness and matter-of-fact tone about a body that constantly generates conflict with itself and the world around it. There is a rich practicality to her wisdom, and a pure, knowing access to physicality despite that physicality’s limitations: I've only rarely seen these things so well captured on the page."—Sara Rauch, LAMBDA Literary
"Through the sterling voice of this brilliant wordsmith, we bear witness to the struggle and grace of a lesbian body undiminished: the relationship with other lesbians and nature so beautiful, daring, and necessary for survival, the heart reverberates with applause."—Roberta Arnold, Sinister Wisdom
“In these lyrical and elegiac essays, Sandra Lambert traces a profound relationship with nature—both the vanishing nature of the planet and the complex nature of her own philosophy. Her language is moving, intimate, and bracingly honest.”—Andrew Solomon, National Book Award–winning author of Far from the Tree
“Having pushed her wheelchair past two hundred alligators, Lambert has written a brilliant and necessary account of a wise and triumphant life as a writer, activist, kayaker, lesbian lover, birder, and survivor of polio. I’m in awe of her gifts.”—Carolyn Forché, author of The Country between Us
“I have loved Sandra Gail Lambert’s stunning and flexible prose for a long time and still was unprepared for the power and searing honesty of her memoir, A Certain Loneliness. This book is an act of tremendous beauty.”—Lauren Groff, author of New York Times bestseller Fates and Furies