Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  133 ratings  ·  27 reviews

A Washington Post Book World Rave

Harriet McBryde Johnson's witty and highly unconventional memoir opens with a lyrical meditation on death and ends with a bold and unsentimental sermon on pleasure. Born with a congenital neuromuscular disease, Johnson has never been able to walk, dress, or bathe without assistance. With assistance, she passionately celebrates her life's ri...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 21st 2006 by Picador (first published 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Waist-High in the World by Nancy MairsMy Body Politic by Simi LintonStricken by Peggy MunsonHow to Be Sick by Toni BernhardThe Rejected Body by Susan Wendell
Women and Disability/Chronic Illness
7th out of 43 books — 15 voters
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot by John CallahanThe Diary of Frida Kahlo by Frida KahloTwirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed by Jeannie Davide-RiveraLife and Love by Zosia ZaksHarm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs by Will Hall
disability studies
7th out of 93 books — 11 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 312)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jun 21, 2012 Synesthesia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Shelves: i-love-this-book
This was a wonderful book. I showed that disability doesn't have to be tragic, doesn't have to mean suffering. Harriet McBryde Johnson lived her life to the fullest. She protested against injustice. She was a lawyer. She didn't pine and wine and bemoan.

Everyone should read this book.
Jun 17, 2008 Jay rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Southerners, disability rights activists, lawyers, politicians, ethicists
This was my reading-on-the-bus book for the last month or so, and the source of the quotes on my whiteboard at work...and then I heard that the Harriet McBryde Johnson died mid-reading. I wished that I had read the book earlier, and that I had had a chance to meet her. Her approach to disability rights activism and memoiring out of her professional, cultural, and personality is unique and a good reminder to activist communities that there's always more than one way to change the world.

I remember...more
This memoir is a mix of the wonderful and the somewhat tedious. The opening chapter is sublime--Johnson describes learning from the Jerry Lewis telethon that, as a child with muscular dystrophy, she is going to die. She expects to die soon even though her mother assures her that her MD is a different kind. When it comes time to go to kindergarten, she decides to do it: "If I'm going to die," she thinks, "I might as well die as a kindergartner." She spends the next 20 years of her life making dec...more
Kathleen O'Neal
I read this book after having previously read a number of Harriet McBryde Johnson's pieces in various publications. I knew it would be wonderful and it definitely lived up to my expectations. In "Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales From a Life," Johnson's meditations on Southern culture, disability, activism, politics, law, narcotics, Cuban culture, philosophy, independence, dependence, and a variety of other topics are funny, perceptive, and extremely real. The book speaks to the soul of t...more

I didn't enjoy this as much as Accidents of Nature. I wasn't that interested in the court proceedings or her run for office; those two stories were, for me, the weakest. Also, her musings about Cuba were bothersome, because she assumes Che Guevara was painted as evil by the US, and wasn't actually a bad guy. Also, she assumes that the economic troubles on the island stem from the US embargo; while that does contribute, the real issue is Castro and his "revolutionary" regime that Johnson almost s

Southern charm and wry humor are the trademarks of this talented story teller. Her voice reaches through her writing as though McBryde herself is sharing her story with you over tea. Her experiences shed light on the social issues surrounding disability and what it means to live rather than be defined by a disability.
Johnson, who was born with a neurological disease, learned from early life that she was not expected to have a long life, hence the title. (She died at the age of 50.) She was an attorney in Charleston, SC, and she recounts running for City Council, attending the Democratic Convention as a delegate, visiting Cuba and debating Peter Singer, a philosopher who argues that parents should have the right to euthanize disabled infants. Above all, she was a disability rights activist who, among other ac...more
Dec 06, 2008 katymoo rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to katymoo by: Jennifer
Harriet McBryde Johnson is truly an amazing woman who never let her disability stop her from anything. My sister gave me this book, and it gave me a very different perspective of disabilities; it is a book that definitely gets you thinking about how we see the world and what our expectations might be. To me there is nothing better than thinking - or seeing - outside of the box.

I did find her larger than life and somewhat aggressive approach to everything a bit tedious to read sometimes. She rea...more
Kathryn Owen
So far, this book is wonderful. My best friend from childhood has cerebral palsy, and experienced the stigmatized and ignorant responses the world has towards those with disabilities, and so I was able to experience them second hand with her. Even the proximity with which I saw it didn't leave me with the understanding that this book has already begun to impart on me. I am not disabled, but I do have a body, and a mind capable of learning from and respecting those with bodies and minds that are...more
I read this book because it was recommended by a member of my book club. The author, who is a lawyer and activist from Charleston, SC, has muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. The message I took away from her stories was that even if you're physically disabled, you can still have a full appreciation of life physically and mentally. I found her aggressive personality, however, a bit trying by the end of the book. But the author admits to her ways when she writes about asking her fa...more
Johnson, lawyer, "crip," wheel chair-bound, and a great voice in literature. A hoot, in part b/c Johnson was a political animal during the Clinton years and didn't support (at least initially) Clinton. Love the tales from this Southern lawyer about her sparring with Pete Singer, the philosopher who would have people like her killed shortly after birth. I wish Harriet had lived longer to giver us more insights into disability and the ADA.
Bailey Sinclair
I thought that this book was very inspirational. Harriet McBryde Johnson is a woman that tells her life story about how she has Muscular Dystrophy. She talk about how she knows she is going to die but has come to except it. Se over comes so many challenges in her life. She goes on in and say if she is going to die she might as we lawyer. She accomplishes all theses things in life while being in a wheel chair it really is remarkable. In my opinion this book a great read and I would recommend it t...more
Eliza Fern
One of my favorite books ever.

McBryde Johnson's humor, Southern charm, wit, and thoughtfulness come through in every page and every sentence as she tells selected tales from her life as a lawyer, a Southern Belle, a woman, and a person with a disability. I could almost instantly relate to her despite not sharing very much of her background. This book reminded me of the kind of person I hope to be and the kind of person who I am glad to have had shape even just a little corner of this world.
I'd give this 4 1/2 stars if I could. Harriet McBryde Johnson can tell a story! She uses anecdotes from her own life to bring reality and perspective to her cause, disability rights. I found the author to be articulate and able to state her opinions convincingly, while sounding like she's sitting across the table relating what happened to her yesterday. I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in the subject of disability rights.
I know inspiring isn't the word she'd like best and yet she inspired me. There's not much else to say. She was the person whose perseverence I drew on most when I was diagnosed with a life threatening chronic illness- seeing the MDA telethon on TV while I was in the hospital a few days after I was diagnosed, I remembered her strength and it gave me the strength. I cried when she died.
Non-fiction. Harriet is 40 years old and lives in Charleston, South Carolina. She is a lawyer and she has a life-long, degenerative muscular disease. She is in a wheel chair and cannot bathe by herself. She is against Jerry Lewis and his telethon. Is for the ADA. She defends the value of lives like hers.
Dec 01, 2008 Jacinda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks they understand disability
Harriet McBryde Johnson is amazing. But not in a sappy "inspirational" way. She has incredible tenacity in standing up to people in power, regardless of how unpopular it might be.

This book is an excellent collection of stories from Johnson's incredible life.
An excellent introduction to disability rights activism. I finished the book and immediately read it again - I had so many, "I've never thought about it *that* way" moments, that I needed to go back and see what else I could flesh out.
One amazing woman, who, despite her own profound disabilities, used her wits and energy to fight for the rights of handicapped people. I can never view the Jerry Lewis telethon the same way again.
She's a great storyteller! If you want an engaging read of autobiographical essays as a way to learn about/encapsulate disability theory/movements, this is the book for you.
Memoirs of a happy, powerful, social justice/disability rights lawyer who was born with a neuromuscular disease that prevented her from ever walking or dressing herself.
Frank Taranto
Wonderful book full of tales from the life of a remakable woman. Miss Johnson is handicapped due to a muscular disease, but lives her life to the fullest.
A unique voice. Harriet passed away in 2008 and I'm sorry to not have had a chance to read other writings of hers.
Feb 07, 2011 Mindy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in disability politics
If you have an interest in disabilities, read this book. otherwise, you can skip it.
Excellent book. Interesting and well written with humor and insight.
One of the best books I've read in years.
everyone should read this book.
She's charming and smart.
love this one.
Jill marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled
  • Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs, and Declarations of Independence
  • No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement
  • Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability
  • Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation
  • Mean Little Deaf Queer
  • The Cancer Journals
  • Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence
  • Poster Child: A Memoir
  • Planet of the Blind
  • Quantum Computing since Democritus
  • The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal
  • All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache
  • Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism
  • There's a Boy in Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism
  • Bitten: True Medical Stories of Bites and Stings
  • Cockeyed: A Memoir of Blindness
  • Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine
Harriet McBryde Johnson (July 8, 1957 - June 4, 2008) was an American author, attorney, and disability rights activist. She was disabled due to a neuromuscular disease and used a motorized wheelchair.

Johnson, who was born in eastern North Carolina, lived most of her life in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2002, Harriet Johnson debated Peter Singer, challenging his belief that parents ought to be abl...more
More about Harriet McBryde Johnson...
Accidents of Nature The Leaves Clapped Their Hands Ideas in Context: Strategies College Rdg The Best of Slate: A 10th Anniversary Anthology

Share This Book