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

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  207 Ratings  ·  30 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
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 21st 2006 by Picador (first published 2005)
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Spider the Doof Warrior
May 29, 2009 Spider the Doof Warrior rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 28, 2008 Jay rated it it was amazing
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
Kathleen O'Neal
Jul 13, 2013 Kathleen O'Neal rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 16, 2015 Judith rated it really liked it
Shelves: above-and-beyond
This sat on my shelf for over three years! I am sorry that I did not pick it up to read sooner, so it could have found more readers.

The title is great. I wish I'd thought of it. It is also perfect for this particular group of stories.

Johnson subtitles the book "nearly true tales from a life". The tales are about her life, from early childhood into middle age, as a person with a neuro-muscular disease. She did not want to know specifically which disease, and it didn't matter anyway. The storie
Jul 17, 2012 Erin rated it really liked it

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

Dec 06, 2011 Libby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kathryn Owen
Apr 20, 2013 Kathryn Owen rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 29, 2008 katymoo rated it liked it
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
Jul 25, 2007 Catherine rated it liked it
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
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
Jun 27, 2013 Eliza Fern rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 06, 2014 Ann rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 10, 2012 Janine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sue Kozlowski
Aug 16, 2013 Sue Kozlowski rated it liked it
Shelves: auto-biogr, memoir
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.
Feb 25, 2013 Jonah rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 05, 2008 Jacinda rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Sep 19, 2010 Tannis rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 29, 2009 Ann rated it really liked it
everyone should read this book.
Aug 24, 2008 Ellen rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 25, 2015 Amy added it
Shelves: read-for-school
Excerpts read for Pathology to Power, Fall 2015.
Feb 16, 2009 Jana rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
love this one.
Nov 22, 2009 Vivian rated it it was amazing
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 it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone interested in disability politics
If you have an interest in disabilities, read this book. otherwise, you can skip it.
May 15, 2012 Lisa rated it liked it
She's charming and smart.
Frank Taranto
Oct 01, 2009 Frank Taranto rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
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.
Oct 10, 2011 Robin rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Interesting and well written with humor and insight.
Jan 09, 2010 Krista rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read in years.
Dorothy Read
Dorothy Read rated it really liked it
Feb 20, 2017
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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 about Harriet McBryde Johnson...

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