The Camera My Mother Gave Me
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The Camera My Mother Gave Me

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  755 ratings  ·  116 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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Julie
Apr 07, 2008 Julie rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
CJ
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.)
Olivia R. Burton
Nov 27, 2008 Olivia R. Burton rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
george
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
Kelly
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
Katie
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!
Lizzie
Apr 27, 2010 Lizzie rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Esther
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...more
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...more
Paul
Mar 19, 2011 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Kristin
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...more
Victoria
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...more
Tima
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)
Carla Hunnicutt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lynn
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.
Allison
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
Erica Irwin
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.
Tia
Jul 24, 2007 Tia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Shaina
More than I ever needed to know about one middle-aged woman's vagina problems. 'Nuff said.
Nicky
A book that defies easy categorization, but mostly falls into memoir. The author reflects across a difficult period of time during which she sought medical and other attention for pain in her vagina. The narrative of being passed from one professional to the next with no real answers or solutions proposed is all too relateable. The reflections on the role of her emotions, physical intimacy and her romantic relationships are also interesting in the way she comes to question her own choices and mo...more
Milan B
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Empress
Jul 02, 2007 Empress rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a vagina, or anyone who cares about people who have vaginas.
vaginas have feelings too.
Chip
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eric Klee
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
Lindsay C
A fast and satisfying read. Having just come off Wuthering Heights, I was ready for something contemporary and minimal...a "make you think but not too hard" kind of book. This did the trick. Devoting just under 150 pages almost solely to her vagina, (Yes! the vagina! It's ok to talk about it!) Susanna Kaysen hooked me into the frustration and pain of her condition. Women don't pay much attention to their vaginas when they are not "in use"... those of us with good gynaecological health tend to ta...more
Barbara
Unlike some people who apparently don't think to read the handy dandy summary on the inside flap, I was aware that this book was about Susanna Kaysen's vagina. Obviously, I was okay with that since I decided to read this book. That being said, I was disappointed. There really isn't much to this book at all. It is 150 pages of doctor's appointments, the author's discussions with her friends, and fights with her asshole boyfriend. (Seriously, what a douche.)While this book is certainly frank and o...more
Jackie
I don't know if I can say anything that Amber hasn't. A bizarrely tragic and almost macabre story, in a way. At first, I thought that this was just going to be a funny shocking light piece of chick lit. I was wrong. We get a view into a woman's relationship with her vagina, but on the periphery, with her boyfriend and friends.

I'm not sure if it was the author's intention, but the main character is intensely immature. I was convinced at the book's beginning she was in her twenties, but she's sur...more
Ashley
Per an objective medical chart, based on diagnosis alone, the associations between Kaysen's 'Girl Interrupted' and 'The Camera My Mother Gave Me’ are manifest; the correlations between the two diagnostic buckets are undeniable, but focusing purely on writing style, I wouldn't realize the language emerged from the same mind. Based on what I recall from her other novel, she was rather astute and insightful (although these impressions may have been augmented by whatever “life experience” that has b...more
Jen Lynn
I knew what I was getting into before I started reading this book. I read the description and a few reviews, so I knew that this was about vaginal health. But it was short so I figured I'd read it just to see how it was. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I can honestly say that. It was kind of interesting hearing the different theories from the different doctors about the subject. But that's about all that was interesting. The writing style and the lack of punctuation was bothersome to...more
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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...more
More about Susanna Kaysen...
Girl, Interrupted Cambridge Far Afield Asa, as I Knew Him Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression

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