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Friday, 26 August 2016

From Monster to Mensch!

Howard ShulmanThree days after his birth in July 1961,  American baby Howard Shulman developed a bacterial infection that devoured half his face. 

But far from taking him home to start to heal and nurture,  Shulman’s distraught parents abandoned him by signing him over as a ward of the State of New Jersey, believing falsely that he would be adopted.

Instead, he was placed in good-hearted foster care and became the patient of a cold-mannered, cack-handed surgeon who went on to perform scores of operations upon  him, many of which would now be considered barbaric.

But it is only in the final third of Shulman’s memoir ** that we learn for certain what we suspect from the start:

His parents were not only Jewish but deeply involved in synagogue and communal affairs; that Shulman was not their first child, but that he has two brothers and a sister who were  automatically granted the Jewish birthright that he has been forever denied.

Howard Shulman.01Because of what has happened to him, Shulman cares little about his Jewish background. But I can’t fathom why his parents did not look for help  from  the community in which they were so deeply immersed; arrange for a circumcision and – despite their revulsed self-loathing shame - for him to be cared for by a Jewish foster family which would have given him a solid understanding of his background.

Instead, he was cut adrift and bar the occasional flash of good luck and glimpse of happiness, he was left to live on his wits, enjoying some success and domestic fulfilment, despite the thousand obstacles flung in his way.

Shulman’s story, which appeared originally as Freak: Memoir of an Outcast, has since been most adroitly edited and reads like an engrossing thriller with an engaging, ugly-beautiful anti-hero who finds redemption.

The best tribute I can give this astonishing tale is to urge you to  stare into the author’s mirror for yourself!

Running from the Mirror**  Running from the Mirror is published by Sandra Jonas Publishing House LLC and is available on Kindle @ $5.99  and in Paperback @ $14.95.

 

 

© Natalie Wood (26 August 2016)

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