The Empathy Exams Essays Leslie Jamison

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Jamison wants us to pay attention to both heart and head, to feeling (in all its messiness and pain) and truth-telling (in all its qualifiers and inadequacy).

Not every essay in the book is as ambitious, nor are they all equally successful.

In the ad copy for a microscope raffled off at the conference, Jamison provides a decent working definition of her own writing style: “examined close-up, our most ordinary parts — even the surface and abrasions of our skin — become wild and terrifying.”There’s something old-fashioned about the idea of an essay — a form we remember writing for school assignments or required reading from musty library books.

But it’s been clear for a while now that we’re in a new golden age of the essay — informed by memoir, long-form journalism, even the epigrammatic style of social media — and in “The Empathy Exams” Leslie Jamison has announced herself as its rising star.

” Indeed, Jamison’s essays document suffering in many forms—murders, muggings, incarcerations and adventure races—but her through line remains constant: a clear-eyed, eloquent examination of what it means to be both human and humane.

Perhaps Jamison’s greatest strength is her willingness to immerse herself into her work, even at the risk of jeopardizing her objectivity. In the author's essay collection The Empathy Exams , Jamison instead attempts to unmask what empathy really is, how it manifests itself, and how we can feel it.She doesn't need your empathy, but she'd sure love to see it for further examination and discussion.By choosing “I agree” below, you agree that NPR’s sites use cookies, similar tracking and storage technologies, and information about the device you use to access our sites to enhance your viewing, listening and user experience, personalize content, personalize messages from NPR’s sponsors, provide social media features, and analyze NPR’s traffic.This information is shared with social media services, sponsorship, analytics and other third-party service providers. Daum does something similar in her recent collection, sharing all sorts of stories that make her sound occasionally crazy, often rude, and mostly very human.The "unspeakable" Daum is mining runs the gamut, but The Unspeakable is basically a book about stuff most people dare not say, either out loud or on the page.Like Jamison, she weaves together wonky topics with her own personal stories, making them seem indelible, fresh, and very unique.A true spiritual twin to Jamison's book, Solnit's 2014 essay collection is similarly preoccupied with the nature and shape of empathy and how it has impacted her own life.Jamison's collection covers a wide range of topics, many of which are compellingly rooted in the medical world (the book's first essay, also entitled "The Empathy Exams" fascinatingly details Jamison's work as a medical actor, tasked with imitating a slew of ailments that budding doctors are meant to diagnose), all of which find their roots in the concept of empathy.Jamison effectively examines both fraught and kind of fun issues, from false murder accusations to extreme endurance challenges to the tragedy of various heroines throughout literature, all of which tie neatly back to the idea of empathy.


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