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The Camera My Mother Gave Me

3.29  ·  Rating Details ·  1,018 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
Susanna Kaysen, who wrote about her teenage depression in the bestseller Girl, Interrupted, now takes on another taboo: her vagina–which suddenly and inexplicably starts to hurt. And neither Kaysen’s cheery gynecologist, nor her internist, nor a laconic “vulvologist” has the cure. An alternative health nurse suggests direct application of tea, baking soda, and boric acid. ...more
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Published December 11th 2001 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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Jan 22, 2008 Julie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women with severe vulva issues
Recommended to Julie by: someone who hates me, obviously
I am trying to remember who suggested I read this book. I want to kick them in their vagina.

I can handle a short book entirely devoted to a woman's vulva. I am completely comfortable with my own and others', and I constantly use words like cunt, pussy, and vulva in a non-derogatory context. I thought I could handle Susanna Kaysen's vag all up in my face for 150 or so pages. WRONG. The only reason I finished it was because it was such a quick, short read and I feel I have more of a right to slam
Mar 08, 2007 Heidi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
not about a camera...
Olivia R. Burton
Oct 24, 2008 Olivia R. Burton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a sense of humour and a vagina.
Anyone going into this book expecting it to be simply about a camera is either not very bright, or hasn't done their research. This book, indeed, is not about a camera, at least not in a literal sense.

The explanation of the title comes from an interview with Kaysen:

"It's a line from a Buñuel movie, Viridiana. The movie's about a bunch of hobos and peasant who take over a country mansion that belongs to a rich woman who's been trying to help them. There's a scene in which all these drunk, dirty c
Apr 09, 2007 CJ rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is entirely about Susanna Kaysen's vagina. Seriously. If you're interested, then this is probably a good book for you. I was personally not a fan. (And no, there were no pictures. At least not in the edition I read, anyway.)
Feb 26, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who has had to deal with this painful issue, as I have.. will appreciate what we go though to get a proper diagnoses and treatment and it is nice to know you are not alone
The book is about Kaysen's vagina. Seriously, that's it--her vagina. It hurts. And hurts. And hurts some more. No one knows what's wrong. She tries wacky things like sitting in tea and she tries antidepressants (and a million other things). Nothing really works. The whole book is her complaining about her vagina. It was not interesting to me. It reminded me of the worst (in my opinion) monologue in the Vagina Monolgues--the my vagina is me one. I am more than my vagina; Kaysen is apparently not. ...more
Jan 30, 2009 Esther rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you live with a problem like Kaysen's, this book is very, very important, very much "I'm not alone." Even so, I found it hard to read -- gruesome, sometimes, even though I've gone through a lot of what she described.

For the reviewers who brushed aside or made fun of this book, how female-forward. Vulvodynia is a common problem (15% of women experience some kind of pelvic pain, according to the volumes and volumes of info I've read) and it is NOT a middle-aged woman's disease -- mine started a
Jul 17, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a chronic illness.
Shelves: biography
In somewhat of a mystery/autobiography, a women relates her experiences with her vagina problems and the many byzantine ways it impacts her life. Talks about how illness can effect who we think we are, our relationships, emotions, and our quality of life. Despite the U.S.'s high level of medical technology, the author's experiences show how elusive finding solutions can be.
Sep 21, 2007 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about Susanna Kaysen's vagina. It is where I learned about the "your bladder is healthy if you can pee for at least 7 seconds at a time" guideline that literally changed my life. High five healthy nether regions!
Scott E
Can someone tell me what "The Camera My Mother Gave Me" means? Is this a part of the secret language that women use (don't deny it...I know you do!)?

Graphic, and rather painful story about Kaysen's Vagina (didn't mean to capitalize it, but by the time you're through with this story, you may too). I've never heard of it before, but I pray this is not a common ailment for women. The one question I took from this is why would her boyfriend be so insistent on getting in there once he knew there was
Jul 07, 2009 Victoria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Susanna Kaysen is the kind of author that I can't help thinking I would like if I were ever to meet her in person. I admire her honesty, her dry and often ironic sense of humor, and the concise way she makes a few words say more than most authors could manage in a book three times the length.

This memoir is sharp, witty, purposeful, full of personality, and short enough that I didn't get tired of it... despite what other goodreads reviews of it say. I can only imagine that it's been a relief and
Apr 27, 2010 Lizzie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone excited by seeing the word "vagina" over and over
All about Susanna Kaysen's vagina. It hurt, she saw a lot of doctors and other experts, nothing helped, her identity was threatened because for her sex is life, her boyfriend kept nagging for sex, they broke up and she missed him, she fell in love with somebody else who didn't love her, she can't get over how her vagina could be mistaken about somebody. That's about it.

As someone with my own cunt issues I was expecting to like this but it was a meaningless bore.
Candice Attrill
Jan 01, 2013 Candice Attrill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cried when I read this book. I have the same condition as the author but was diagnosed before my vagina was active,
Susanna dares to say things I could only think and not say.
She goes through the reality of seeking treatmentI found the book to be honest and challenging and wish I could thank her for writing this book.
Tara Edelman
Oct 30, 2014 Tara Edelman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are uncomfortable reading an entire book about a woman's vagina troubles, this is not the book for you. If you've ever had bemusing medical experiences related to your undercarriage or appreciate comic accounts of vaginal mysteries, then this oddly riveting book IS for you.
Erica Irwin
Feb 16, 2008 Erica Irwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who's ever had an undiagnosable problem that baffles medical authorities and only seems to worsen with treatment. I haven't actually experienced that, but if I did I would probably like this book even more.
Jul 24, 2007 Tia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a vagina
First the title gives you no clue what the book is about. It was an interesting look at a woman's relationship with her body, her sexual self, her vagina.
Jul 02, 2007 Empress rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a vagina, or anyone who cares about people who have vaginas.
vaginas have feelings too.
Feb 09, 2017 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gotta love a woman willing to write a memoir about her vagina. A little dry at times, but overall I appreciate the boldness of the topic chosen and the exploration of how the psychological and physical illness can be more connected than we care to recognize.
Eric Klee
Apr 12, 2010 Eric Klee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think we've all had some pain or condition that no doctors have been able to treat and/or diagnose. We've just had to deal with it until it slowly went away. In Susanna Kaysen's case, it happens to be her "down there" region. She's frustrated that she has an inexplicable condition and even more frustrated that her doctors aren't able to do anything for her. On top of all the pain and worrying, she has to deal with a self-centered boyfriend that is insensitive to her pain and can only focus on ...more
Jan 17, 2014 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book in high school when I was in a feminist/Vagina Monologue phase. I initially picked it up because, who wasn't watching Girl Interrupted at every sleepover? And it was short and super candid (which is everything I love in a memoir). I decided to revisit it, because I only remembered it vaguely and it was a little mature for my understanding at the time. This reread was very beneficial, however everything I thought I knew was opposite. I remembered reading a book about a powe ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Kristin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Thank goodness this was a freebie from my gym's book exchange. I picked it up thinking the author would chronicle her quest to detemine the cause of intense pain in her female organs culminating in the dicovery that it was some rare genetic condition inherited from her mom. Guess the title is deceiving. The book's description also said it was at times funny. They must have left the funny out of my copy.
Instead, she spends 160 pages whining about why she doesn't like any of the treatments suggest
All I really have to say about this book is that it is a very acquired taste (which almost made me gag to type that phrase..).

Kaysen is a decent writer but seems like she would be really miserable to know in person, so I'll just continue to be grateful that I only know her through her words.

Fair warning to everyone: Always read the inside jacket description before you purchase a book. This title is very misleading.. ;)

(view spoiler)
Edwina Hall Callan
It's not about a camera ....

Susanna has a "sick vagina".
Susanna goes to doctors ... a lot of doctors, over and over again,
seeking a cure for this strange malady.
Susanna has a boyfriend who is a beast,
and would greatly benefit by an introduction to Lorena Bobbitt.

Reading this book is like passing a wreck on the highway ...
you know you shouldn't look, you don't want to look ...
and yet ... you do.

I picked this book up at a YMCA book fair. That is the good news ... what little I paid for it went to a good cause. An entire book about your painful vagina? Or is it about your neurosis?

The other fortunate news is I read the book while waiting for an appointment. Rather than reading this painful memoir I should have picked up one of the out-of-date magazines in the waiting room.

Do not waste your time.
Feb 19, 2011 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2005
This is a short, quick read, but very powerful. Kaysen definitely pulls no punches. She is extrememly critical of her doctors and, to an extent, of herself and her friends. Frustratingly, it takes her a while to be as critical of her assholish boyfriend, who plays a major role in this story. Not for the squeamish this is an excellently written, blunt, and frightening account of what happens when a part so personal seems to rebel against its own existence.
Caitie Ellis
Unless you suffer from a similar condition I can't imagine this book being very interesting. However if you do, it's like a warm understanding hug.
Dec 26, 2014 Jillian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first of what will hopefully many books where the main character is a woman's vagina...
Mar 18, 2008 Shaina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
More than I ever needed to know about one middle-aged woman's vagina problems. 'Nuff said.
Jan 30, 2017 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health, memoirs
As someone who has dealt with a couple of chronic illnesses, including a chronic pain condition, this book rang incredibly true. The reviewers who are saying that this book is just about Susanna Kaysen's vagina are missing the point - it is about her vaginal pain disorder, yes, but it's more about the way that you are treated when you have an illness that is not easily diagnosed. There's the helpful friends and knowledgable medical professionals, but also the parade of doctors who either dismiss ...more
Aug 03, 2009 Chip rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Susanna Kaysen is an American author.

Kaysen was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kaysen attended high school at the Commonwealth School in Boston and the Cambridge School before being sent to McLean Hospital in 1967 to undergo psychiatric treatment for depression. It was there she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She was released after eighteen months. She later drew
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