From the Publisher
"You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know does not read like any memoir you know...Unless I've got prose blindness, Sellers is an ace...Her calm, glass-half- full-to-overflowing worldview could, in another writer's hands, veer towards treacle, but she pulls it off beautifully. I predict exciting things for her: critical acclaim, hearty sales, and, perhaps best of all, long lines of strangers at every reading."
-The New York Times Book Review
"Never forget a face? What if you couldn't remember any? Sellers...learns to appreciate the upside: Being blind to faces makes it easier to see herself and those she loves as they really are."
-PEOPLE, four star review
"Although [Sellers] can't recognize others, in this book she has managed to find herself."
"Stunning...This is a memoir to be devoured in great chunks. The pleasure of reading it derives both from its graceful style and from its ultimate lesson: that seeing our past for what it really was, and forgiving those involved, frees us up to love them all the more, despite their (and our) limitations."
The Elle's Lettres Readers' Prize 2010
Although it sounds like a train wreck, almost every reader loved this plucky self-portrait…
October 2010 Issue
YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE ANYONE I KNOW
By Heather Sellers
The ELLE’S LETTRES Readers’ Prize 2010
Every month, 15 ELLE readers vote for their favorite book among three new releases we love.
1. Heather Sellers
YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE ANYONE I KNOW (Riverhead)
Although it sounds like a train wreck, almost every reader loved this plucky self-portrait: Her parents chronically beset by mental illness, alcoholism, and domestic dysfunction, Sellers herself struggles with face blindness, a neurological disorder that makes people literally unrecognizable to her.
It sometimes appears that contemporary memoir has become a game of misery poker, authors competing for the most appalling hand of woes. Face blindness would seem to be a trump card, but Sellers doesn't play it that way. On the contrary…She views prosopagnosia as a gift…[and] believes her condition helped her as a writer by forcing her to focus on "the essence of the person," not the surface. The writing bears this out. Sellers captures the people in her life in spare, perfect strokes…Her calm, glass-half-full-to-overflowing worldview could, in another writer's hands, veer toward treacle, but she pulls it off beautifully.
The New York Times
October 2010 Issue
YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE ANYONE I KNOW
By Heather Sellers
QA: Do I Know You?
Heather Sellers can’t remember anyone’s face- not her mom’s, her boyfriend’s or even her own.
For years she thought she was crazy: Why couldn’t she recognize anyone’s face? Then Heather Sellers learned the truth. She has a neurological syndrome called prosopagnosia, or “face-blindness.” We spoke with the 46-year-old English professor at Hope College in Michigan about her new memoir, You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know.
Q: It’s hard to picture this syndrome- what do you see when you look at a face?
A: I probably see exactly what you do. But when I look away, I don’t remember it- I have no ability to store an image of the human face. I have to go by hair, context, and body type to recognize people. It’s a memory problem, not a vision problem.
Q: How common is prosopagnosia?
A: I have a serious case; others have more mild cases. Studies show that 1 out of 50 people are affected to some degree. It can be caused by a stroke, head injuries, or diseases; or you can be born with it, like I was.
Q: When did you pinpoint the problem?
A: I always knew something was wrong. But I was a super-weird kid- kind of intellectual and dramatic, so my parents just dismissed it. I didn’t understand what the problem was, but it affected me hugely; I have horrible memories of being on the school swim team, with everyone wearing the exact same suit. In college, I was diagnosed with anxiety. But about five years ago, in my research, I came across the term “prosopagnosia” and knew instantly.
Q: How do you cope at work?
A: When I got my first professor job, I’d quietly write down the name and description of everyone I met. Now that I’m “out,” I love talking about it, especially with my students. I tell them on the first day of class.
Q: And in your dating life?
A: I tell men up front so they’re not upset when I don’t recognize them on the street. And, I suppose, there’s an upside to my condition: I don’t take in the surface stuff. Movie stars drive me crazy. Beautiful people all look so similar, with their perfect hair and bodies, that I can’t tell them apart on-screen. The more odd people look, the easier it is to identify them.
– Anna Maltby