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Poster Child: A Memoir

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  612 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Emily Rapp was born with a congenital defect that required, at the age of four, that her left foot be amputated. By the time she was eight she'd had dozens of operations and her entire leg below the knee had been amputated. She had also become the smiling, always perky, indefatigable poster child for the March of Dimes, and spent much of her childhood traveling around the ...more
Hardcover, 226 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published December 26th 2006)
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Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
I initially approached this book the same way I do any other book - the subject sounded interesting, the description or maybe the title caught my eye. I'm a sucker for memoirs - basically any memoir - so I picked it up to read a few days ago with no more thought to it than that. I was about halfway through the book before I realized why, exactly, I was feeling a connection to Emily Rapp and her disability. I was kind of surprised when I came to this realization, though afterwards I thought it sh ...more
Jun 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Having suffered from birth defects myself in addition to self-image issues from not feeling beautiful or "normal" while I was growing up, I'm drawn to memoirs by people facing similar challenges. Many years ago I was similarly moved by Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face, about a girl who had to have 1/3 of her jaw removed as a result of childhood cancer.

Emily Rapp was born with a rare genetic bone and tissue disorder that resulted in one of her legs being shorter than the other. Throughout he
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm a slow reader so seeing that it didn't take me long to read this book definitely says something. I enjoyed it a lot, and related SO much to Emily in a lot of different ways. Same body issues (I don't have a hand), same worries about boyfriends and intimacy, same religious upbringing in a way. I was led to tears and had to stop reading at some parts because of how raw her emotions felt to me. I felt like I was reading my own story at times and it was almost too much for me. Like her, I hate t ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an interesting memoir, though not a great one. Emily Rapp was born in Nebraska in 1974 with a birth defect that caused one leg to be shorter than the other. Untreated, her legs would have stayed at the same length ratio as they grew, so instead she went through multiple operations as a young child. Her left foot was ultimately amputated so that she could wear a prosthetic leg, which she did from age five. This memoir focuses on her disability and how it affected her young life: it ends w ...more
Bonnie G.
Mar 13, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: disability, memoir
Rapp writes a nice sentence, but holy hell this was boring. I feel certain that I have fulfilled my lifetime quota of reading about visits to the prosthetist's office. Though their lives are altogether different this reminded me of the Dave Grohl bio which I abandoned early on. Well put together, the memoirists both seem like nice people, but so filled with the mundane it is impossible to imagine anyone could possibly be interested. ...more
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book as I began it. I was curious about a child growing up in WY & CO with a prosthetic leg. I loved the opening about being adventurous enough to take a risk and go to South Korea. However, I was sorely disappointed with the narrators tone, self-loathing, body image obsessed and controlling persona which emerged. I also felt that a lot more of the book was explaining her weight obsession than what the prosthetic looked like. There was only 1 photograph. Also, I felt as ...more
Kimberly Colombero
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had an extra bit of sadness for me though because I had already read "Still Point of the Turning World," which is later memoir of hers in which her suffering is far greater... I wished I had a way to reach in and grab her and warn her.

Sometimes books have a way of changing a small part of you just by reading them. Both of these memoirs did that for me.
Jan 08, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is the third of this author's memoirs I've read, after The Still Point of the Turning World, and Sanctuary, which she published as Emily Rapp Black. Her experiences in those books were gruelling and painful to read (but, I know, nowhere near as painful as they were to experience and write about) and I was inspired by both her emotional honesty and writing skill to read Poster Child. I feel the same way here as I did on finishing Sanctuary: "It's a rare book where I heard everything the auth ...more
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read The Still Point of the Turning World a day or two before picking this one up, all the while thinking should I be reading Poster Child first? Answer: no, not necessarily. This filled in a lot of information, but it wasn't information that I needed for her second book, and I'm kind of glad to have gone into that one (somewhat) more blind.

You know how sometimes, reading a memoir, you can tell that the author has a real sense for pacing and content? This was one of those times. She's not tryi
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This was a fairly interesting read, though very self-indulgent. I guess that's to be expected- it IS a memoir about a woman who grapples with disability and body images. It was in the same vein as "Autobiography of a Face" by Lucy Grealy which I enjoyed much more. I did think Rapp went on a bit too long on some of her points. And there were extended descriptions of practically every prosthetic leg she ever wore (probably 20 of them over the course of her life) which got very old. But I liked her ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
Interesting memoir by a young woman who has worn a prothesis most of her life due to a birth defect. One year she was the March of Dimes' poster child, hence the title. The story gets a bit boring and repetitive at times, in part due to the strictly chronological structure. Because it's a short book, I occasionally felt the repetition was just to make it longer, but of course, I could be completely wrong. I still enjoyed reading it. Learning about the emotional struggle she goes through despite ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I absolutely enjoyed this book. The author is about my age. Her experiences mirrored mine. It was almost as if; in many ways: she were telling my story. The prosthetics she was fitted with were quite similar to the ones I was fitted with as well.
I too was the over achiever, to somehow prove "I'm just like everyone else."
The food issues that she had I experienced as well. Many, Many similarities to my own life. (Although I was never a Poster Child, and was adamantly against being anyone's token
Apr 06, 2012 rated it liked it
This was a sweet, sad memoir about a girl who grows up having only one leg. She is born with a birth defect that causes her to have to have her leg amputated. She goes through life having to deal with the mockery of her peers, as well as dealing with the troubles of having a leg that is too small for her stump. The story was sad, but it was a bit one note for me.
Noah Sanders
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
Emily Rapp's debut novel is called Poster Child because the book is supposedly about her growing up as disabled child and becoming to one degree or another the poster child for the March of Dimes due to the genetic defect that left her with only one-leg. And for a good portion of the book, we journey along with Rapp as she bounces between prosthetic experts and goes through puberty and deals with the horrible wash of emotions and obstacles that a strong-willed girl with only one leg in the 70s a ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Okay, so I really have mixed opinions about this book.

First, I would like to say that I did not choose to read this book - it was assigned to me for a class I am currently taking. At first, I really enjoyed the first 50 pages of the book (Rapp does write well I'll give her that). However, as the book went on, I began to sympathize less and less with Rapp. I found her bratty, annoying and attention seeking, not just as a kid but as an adult. She frequently refuses to take responsibility for her
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
I first heard of this book after reading an article that Emily Rapp had written for The New York Times about her son Ronan who has Tay-Sachs disease and likely won't live past his third birthday. Her story broke my heart and her perspective grabbed my attention. Her way of writing was in no way a "woe is me" agenda; she just seemed genuinely thankful for the limited minutes she has with her son.

But seriously, talk about a crappy genetic hand. Emily herself was born with a genetic disorder that
Nov 18, 2013 rated it liked it
This is an important book, but not a great one, mainly because of its unevenness. Rapp spends a lot of time going through all the details of her childhood, her operations and prostheses, and her developing self-perception. But she skims through her teen years, which are absolutely critical for the development of positive self-esteem and body image, and it felt like she ended the book too soon. There wasn't much of a resolution, which on one hand is understandable since we are always in the proce ...more
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction, 2012
I really enjoyed the beginning and the end, but the middle dragged at times. I appreciated an opportunity to read about someone not all that different than me in age/gender/upbringing, etc & her experience growing up with a disability. I think the teen years are awkward enough - I can't imagine having a fake leg & how much more insecure that would make you feel. I remember not wanting braces because I already had glasses! (and how wonderful it was to get contact lens in junior high).

I wish she
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
I picked up this book because I work in a lab that does molecular testing for various neuromuscular diseases and the title caught my eye.

I was not knocked out by the content of the book - although I think that the author is an amazing person and I hope that she continues to collect awards for her writing- but also that she can find the time to take care of her inner self now that she has proved to everyone - and hopefully and most importantly - herself that she can be faster, better, stronger th
Luanne Castle
Dec 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Although I had a stack of books to choose from, I read this one first because I was so taken with the photo on the cover.

Emily is a little girl on a pretty bike with training wheels. Her red hair is long. She looks like a fun but girly girl wearing white lacy socks and white sandals. But there is one thing amiss in the photo–the girl has an artificial leg.

I read Emily’s book not long after reading Lucy Grealy’s memoir. Both are about childhoods filled with surgeries and medical problems. In this
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a moving and honest story, which I deeply appreciate. Rapp doesn't shy away from telling the less-savory bits of her attitude towards her prosthetic leg: most movingly, she tells of how she'd pinch wings and legs off bugs or leave salamanders in tanks to die from starvation or thirst.

For me, I prefer a less straight-forward, chronological telling; instead, I prefer a more nuanced telling. Sarah Manguso's book The Two Kinds of Decay is a perfect example of this, each chapter like a prose
Rochelle Garwood
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This is such a well-written book, I feel kind of bad for only giving it three stars. She is brutally honest about her own feelings, and if you're interested in getting in the head of a person struggling to come to terms with their disability, this book certainly offers that opportunity. But fact is, I really don't ever want to read it again. The author does a beautiful job of evoking the pain and self-loathing that many young people (with or without disabilities) experience. Too good, really; I ...more
Aug 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I had originally added this book to my TBR list after reading a review in People magazine when it was first released. I thought it was an interesting look at the life of a woman who is born with a genetic defect that immediately moves her from the world of the normal to that of the disabled. I found her struggle with body image, something that most women face, very interesting when colored with the additional burden of being an amputee. I also had no idea the multitude of issues that come along ...more
Barbara Ixba
May 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
This wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't great either. When I was in the 3rd grade my father had his leg amputated, and I vividly remember all of the conflicting emotions this event brought about in my own life. I was expecting more raw, uninhibited emotion. I was expecting this book to help me see things through my father's eyes, but I don't feel like it accomplished that. While the author did share her story and how she felt along the way, the descriptions seemed one-dimensional and never really ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating, honest, no-holds-barred account of Emily Rapp's struggles with her birth defect (PFFD), which resulted in her needing to have her damaged leg amputated and needing to learn to cope with prostheses over the years, which thankfully have much improved since she was a child. The psychological aspects of body image are explored as she chronicles her experiences as an overachiever, as a teenager desperate to fit in, as a young woman exploring her sexuality with men. It's difficu ...more
Sandy Tonnesen
Apr 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Have you ever tasted a vertical flight...the same wine spanning multiple years? It really provides an interesting perspective on the wine maker. Well, this is how I felt reading Poster Child, Emily Rapp's first memior. Having loved The Still Point of the Turning World, her second memoir, I found within Poster Child glimmers of the writer that a maturing Emily Rapp would become. Poster Child is a good book, and a wrenching story - but it doesn't have the same deep, introspective expression that c ...more
Blaise Dierks
Sep 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
this is a memoir from a woman who was born with a deformity which ended up with one of her legs being amputated at age 4. It was really interesting to read about her struggles to deal with this throughout her whole life. she shares her innermost thoughts and feelings...very candidly.
i really like learning about what life is like for someone who is different than me so that is why i enjoyed this book.
sometimes the philosophical "why me" musings got a little old though
still, i can't imagine if th
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Intimate, interesting and with appropriate sentimentality, the memoir of a child amputee figuring out how to be normal and extraordinary at once resonates with the insecurities of young women. Her writing elegantly reveals her changing voice from a precocious toddler through awkward school age years through adulthood without betraying a narration that is visceral of her experiences. Body image fears boil down to the same pangs of fear, self-loathing, denial and hopefully acceptance for most youn ...more
Jul 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
The author describes how a birth defect caused her to have her left foot amputated, the ensuing ordeals of prosthetics and adolescence, and how she finally came to terms with her disability. An interesting story from an unusual point of view; it got a little too philosophical and analytical at the end for my taste (she DID major in theology and studied divinity at Harvard), and I would have liked to see some photos of all the prosthetic devices (the verbal descriptions were extremely technical a ...more
Cassie Burris
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Poster Child by Emily Rapp was a really good book in my opinion. There were many humanitarian issues present in this book. The book went through Emily's life as she battled with her birth defect and trying to find the person she really and truly was. The humanitarian issue that I picked was birth defects and how they are fairly common. Also there are many ways to prevent them from occurring. I felt that the TED talk was very easy because of the humanitarian issue that I picked. It was easy to co ...more
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Emily Rapp was born in Nebraska and grew up in Wyoming and Colorado. Born with a congenital defect, her left foot was amputated at age four, and she has worn a prosthetic limb ever since. A former Fulbright scholarship recipient, she was educated at Harvard University, Saint Olaf College, Trinity College-Dublin, and the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She h ...more

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