Nenia Campbell's Reviews > My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor
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Mar 06, 14

Read on March 06, 2012

You know, the words brain scientist shouldn't be in the title because they are really misleading in regards to what this book is actually about.

What I expected:


What I actually got:


The two "background" chapters on neuroanatomy were fascinating. I didn't have the aptitude for the chemistry required to emphasize in psychobiology but that didn't stop me from taking the entry level courses anyway. I love knowing how the brain works - it ties in so well with the social psychology aspects. It's like being able to explain why two plus two is four and not just state it like it's a fact.

But after those two chapters, it kind of gets all new-agey. Like, she wakes up feeling like crap and thinks, "Hmm, that's weird. My eye hurts and my vision is blurry. I know what'll make things better! Strenuous exercise!" And then when that doesn't work, she's like, "Hmm. I feel slightly unbalanced. I think I'll take a shower."

I am not joking. This is a woman with a Ph.D. Granted, her decision making was impaired by the stroke so she couldn't be faulted for that, but her childlike amusement ("Oh! I can't understand symbols anymore! LOL KTHXBYE, Wernicke's area!") at her rapidly deteriorating condition was kind of shocking. And then the fifty or so pages after that full of spiritual experiences and The Little Engine That Couldesque philosophy was kind of annoying.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's great she recovered as much as she did. I just wish that more emphasis was put on the plasticity of the brain and studies supporting this (something the author herself advocates several times but, oddly, never discusses in full) and not about how maintaining a can-do attitude is crucial! to a good recovery. I'm sure she's a lovely person but she's not very good at writing. Though since she went from having to learn to read all over again in her late thirties (which must have been stressful for her mother, who had to teach her. with picture books), to writing pseudo-scientific psychology books, I was really attempted to give her an extra star.

But I decided not to, because I also gave Temple Grandin one star, and I find her a lot more interesting than Ms. Taylor. I've actually had the pleasure of hearing her speak and watching a documentary about her, and she has a fascinating life. Unfortunately, her writing style was too dry for me. I'm a very verbal and emotional person. She is not. The writer/reader chemistry between us was all wrong. Luckily, no mothers of autistic children have raised the hue and the cry against me. Yet. Like the inestimable Ms. Grandin, Ms. Taylor had no writer/reader chemistry with me, either. I haven't heard her speak so I can't vouch for her legitimacy the same way, but I'm going to assume she's a lovely person. She just can't write worth a bean - at least not right now. In the future, who knows?
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