The Empathy Exams: Essays

empathy-examsMonday April 4, 2016 7:00 pm
Hardwick Hall, UBC Medical Student and Alumni Centre
2750 Heather St, Vancouver

Discussant: Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Professor of Clinical Medicine and Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University.

Readers note – only the first essay of the collection (also titled “The Empathy Exams”) will be discussed.

Beginning with her experience as a medical actor, 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 one another? 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. The Empathy Exams is a brilliant and forceful book by one of America’s vital young writers.

“Extraordinary . . . she calls to mind writers as disparate as Joan Didion and John Jeremiah Sullivan as she interrogates the palpitations of not just her own trippy heart but of all of ours. . . . Her cerebral, witty, multichambered essays tend to swing around to one topic in particular: what we mean when we say we feel someone else’s pain. . . . I’m not sure I’m capable of recommending a book because it might make you a better person. But watching the philosopher in Ms. Jamison grapple with empathy is a heart-expanding exercise.”Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“[A] stunning collection. . . . A profound investigation of empathy’s potential and its limits.”Cosmopolitan, “10 Books by Women You Have to Read This Spring”

More Reviews at: https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/empathy-exams

Download the reading guide (PDF)

 
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