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The Empathy Exams

Each month our staff picks additional recommendations based on our Dandy Roll Book Club pick. We're recommending The Empathy Exams for those of our members who enjoyed the essay format and the exploration of human nature in our July pick, Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui.

Leslie Jamison is capable of putting things into words that you’ve felt before but never been able to articulate – and she does it with grace, candor, and a variety of utterly fascinating subjects.

From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is 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.

  • Paperback, 230 pages
  • Published April 1st 2014 by Graywolf Press