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Girl in Glass: Dispatches from the Edge of Life
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Girl in Glass: Dispatches from the Edge of Life

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by Deanna Fei
 

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Winner of 2016 Books for a Better Life Award
A Washington Post Book Club Selection
A Public Books Favorite Book of 2015

When her daughter was born nearly four months premature, Deanna Fei confronted a shattering question: Had she delivered a child or lost one? Over months in the hospital, as she held the hand of

Overview

Winner of 2016 Books for a Better Life Award
A Washington Post Book Club Selection
A Public Books Favorite Book of 2015

When her daughter was born nearly four months premature, Deanna Fei confronted a shattering question: Had she delivered a child or lost one? Over months in the hospital, as she held the hand of a tiny baby fighting for her life inside a glass box, she came to grips with parenthood at its most elemental. Then, a year after she brought her daughter home, the CEO of her husband's company publicly blamed the medical bills of the beautiful, now-thriving little girl for a cut in employee benefits and attached a price tag to her life, setting off a national firestorm.

Girl in Glass is the riveting story of one child's harrowing journey and a mother's impassioned defense of human worth against corporate disregard. With luminous prose and an unflinching eye, Fei explores what it means to save a life: from the front lines of a neonatal intensive care unit to the perils of the American health-care system; from decades of medical innovation to the question of how we care for our most vulnerable; and finally, to the potent force of a child's will to live. Above all, Girl in Glass is a testament to how love takes hold when a new life defies all expectations.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The author has spun a profound work of philosophy and sewn it into the shell of an exquisite memoir." —Jennifer Senior, The New York Times

“In this courageous and passionate book, Deanna Fei tells the story of delivering a medically fragile child at 25 weeks. Even those who know the outcome will be gripped by the novelistic depiction of oscillating hope and despair. But the real accomplishment of this book is that it takes memoir as a jumping-off point for pondering the obligations attached to scientific progress and collective wealth. In addressing the issue of how much a human life is ultimately worth, it becomes a deeply moving work of moral philosophy.” —Andrew Solomon, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of FAR FROM THE TREE

“Deanna Fei has written three gripping tales in one--her transcendent journey as the mother of a child born way too soon; her plunge into the harsh realities of corporate greed and bumbling when a certain CEO publicly labeled her daughter a 'distressed baby'; and her hard-won understanding of what society owes its most fragile beings. Readers will fall in love with Fei's daughter, and come to see that she is all of our children.” —Lisa Belkin, author of LIFE'S WORK and former columnist for the NEW YORK TIMES's Motherlode blog

“Luminous . . . An unflinching testament to the improbable miraculousness of life. This is an astonishing book, full of dark beauty and grace and a hard-earned integrity, one that will haunt me for a long time.” —Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of THE SPACE BETWEEN US and THE STORY HOUR

“Fei grippingly details her dread, anxiety, and wonder with her second-trimester delivery . . . An urgent call for corporate compassion by a woman with a baby in peril.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Extraordinarily beautiful.” —NPR, All Things Considered

“Impassioned, important . . . [Fei] critiques . . . the entire American health-care system. Yet this is not a fire-breathing polemic or a policy tract. It's most effective, and affecting, as a mother's memoir of how her life changed the day her daughter came into the world far too soon . . . [Fei] is an eloquent stylist who writes with immediacy and honesty . . . moving and persuasive.” —The Washington Post

“Raw, unflinching, and beautifully written.” —Good Housekeeping

“A heartbreaking yet beautiful story of motherhood and love . . . Fei is a gifted writer with a courageous tale to share. This memorable book belongs on the shelf of every library.” —Library Journal

“[Fei] writes with precision, grace, and a devastating honesty.” —The Boston Globe

"This memoir is so starkly, poignantly written, so smart and wrenching, and I just had a truly visceral response to both the story and to Fei's fierce, plain mother love throughout." —(Year in Reading 2015), The Millions

"Everyone must read this book." —Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC

"Honest and clear-eyed . . . Mesmerizing." —Yahoo! Parenting

"Somehow finding immense bravery amid her turbulent experience, Fei has written a memoir, Girl in Glass . . . She’s able to construct a scene with just a few details and go straight to its emotional heart. Her writing immerses readers through intimate vignettes: the first time she was able to embrace her daughter; the daughter’s first feedings achieved painstakingly for months; her daughter’s first unassisted breaths . . . It’s amazing how she’s able to ask so many of the hard questions . . . about the value of one fragile human life. Anyone who recognizes or questions the idea that human life has a price tag will want to read this book." —Tamiko Nimura, Hyphen Magazine

"Dramatic . . . Argue[s] eloquently against corporate greed and the bottom line of profit and loss." —The Catholic Reporter

"One of 2015’s most moving and important books." —Largehearted Boy

The New York Times - Jennifer Senior
The author has spun a profound work of philosophy and sewn it into the shell of an exquisite memoir…[Girl in Glass] becomes a dramatic, step-by-step examination of what it means to sustain a life without knowing the consequences of doing so, of tolerating an excruciating level of ambiguity…Ms. Fei, a novelist, conjures this episode of her life with such immediacy and vivid emotional recall that we experience her distress as our own.
Library Journal
★ 08/01/2015
When she was only five months into her pregnancy, novelist Fei (A Thread of Sky) unexpectedly went into labor and delivered a one-pound baby girl who was not expected to live. Fei and her husband were told that if Mila survived she would be at risk for blindness, deafness, chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and the inability to lead an independent life. But Mila did live, and after a year in the NICU, she came home. What follows is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of motherhood and love. When news headlines such as "AOL CEO Tim Armstrong blames benefit cuts on "distressed babies" began to surface, the term went viral. Armstrong's statement that AOL had to change its 401(k) benefits because two AOL families (Fei's husband worked for AOL) had "distressed babies," which cost the company a million dollars, became a launching pad for evaluating the bottom line in terms of the price of prematurity. Fei dedicates the last section of her book to this discussion, both personally and politically. While Armstrong apologized for his words and implications, the author outed herself as one of the mothers of the distressed babies and began a national conversation. VERDICT Fei is a gifted writer with a courageous tale to share. This memorable book belongs on the shelf of every library.
Kirkus Reviews
2015-04-29
A first-person account of a woman who became a cause célèbre following the grievous circumstances of her baby's birth. Novelist Fei (A Thread of Sky, 2010) grippingly details her dread, anxiety, and wonder with her second-trimester delivery, during which "the walls of [her] body gave way," and she palpably describes her baby's fragile condition—one doctor described the baby's skin as "gelatinous." Readers will be haunted by Fei's initial guilt and ambivalence as she recounts the months of "separation and agony and limbo" when her infant, who was less than 2 pounds at birth, received extraordinary, intensive care. The author calls her daughter's early arrival as "so wholly a catastrophe," as her conditions included a brain hemorrhage, respiratory distress syndrome, anemia, and jaundice. Later, when the family's hospital bills began to reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, Fei's second struggle commenced. Her husband and a colleague were cruelly castigated by their company's CEO, Tim Armstrong of AOL (who is worth more than $400 million), for necessitating the cuts in the company's retirement benefits due to the births of their "distressed babies…at a cost of one million dollars each." The author sensibly questions—and reasonably doubts—Armstrong's rationale that these unforeseen medical emergencies of his two employees were truly a hindrance to the company's bottom line. His contempt for two terribly fragile newborns and their families caused a national debate about corporate responsibility, compassion, and decency, and whether employers are obligated to provide workers with a "fiscally prudent health care plan." The book then becomes a treatise on "privacy rights" and the unauthorized buying and selling of patients' health data. Fei devotes much space to what she calls the "modern medical-industrial complex" and what some might regard as an overly long but informed discourse on the history of employer-provided health care. An urgent call for corporate compassion by a woman with a baby in peril.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620409923
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
05/24/2016
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author


Deanna Fei is the author of the award-winning novel A Thread of Sky. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Fei has received a Fulbright Grant and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Time, Fortune, and Slate. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. For photos, videos, and more, please visit deannafei.com.

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Girl in Glass: How My Distressed Baby Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MDoron More than 1 year ago
This is a truly extraordinary book. As a neonatologist, I've dealt with premature babies and their families for more than twenty years; yet the window GIRL IN GLASS provides into the emotional turmoil, wrenching family dynamics, and sometimes casually cruel behavior of medical professionals and workplace colleagues in response to an extremely premature birth still left me amazed, with my stomach in knots and mind churning. Deanna Fei’s account is acutely felt and expressed in every detail; unflinchingly honest; powerfully insightful; and brave in its exposure. Her analysis of the lack of privacy of personal health information and its misuse by employers and insurers is eye-opening and a warning to us all.