You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know: A True Story of Family, Face Blindness, and Forgiveness

You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know: A True Story of Family, Face Blindness, and Forgiveness

by Heather Sellers
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Overview

You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know: A True Story of Family, Face Blindness, and Forgiveness by Heather Sellers

A "poignant" (Boston Globe) family memoir that gives new meaning to hindsight, insight, and forgiveness

Heather Sellers is face-blind—that is, she has prosopagnosia, a rare neurological condition that describes the inability to recognize faces. Growing up, unaware of the reason for her perpetual confusion and anxiety, she took what cues she could from speech, hairstyle, and gait. The truth was revealed two decades later when Heather took the man she would marry home to meet her parents and discovered the astonishing truth about her family, herself, and living with mental illness. In this uplifting memoir, Sellers illuminates a deeper truth: that even in the most chaotic and heartbreaking of families, love may be seen and felt.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594485404
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/04/2011
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 329,797
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.99(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Heather Sellers is the author of the story collection Georgia Under Water and several books on writing. A poet, essayist, and frequent contributor to O: The Oprah Magazine, The Sun, and other publications, she teaches at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Heather Sellers is face-blind—that is, she has prosopagnosia, a rare neurological condition that prevents her from reliably recognizing people's faces. Growing up, unaware of the reason for her perpetual confusion and anxiety, she took what cues she could from speech, hairstyle, and gait. The truth was revealed two decades later when Heather took the man she would marry home to meet her parents and discovered the astonishing truth about her family and about herself. In this uplifting memoir, Sellers illuminates a deeper truth: that even in the most chaotic and heartbreaking of families, love may be seen and felt.


ABOUT HEATHER SELLERS

Heather Sellers is the author of the story collection Georgia Under Water and several books on writing. A poet, essayist, and frequent contributor to O: The Oprah Magazine, The Sun, and other publications, she teaches at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Sellers struggles, as a child, to find safety with her mother and then with her father. As an adult, in what ways does she comes to terms with each parent's failure to provide that safety and constancy?
  • Sellers' mother constantly checks locked doors, and worries she is being followed. Her father cross-dresses and drinks around the clock. In what ways are her parents alike, and in what key ways are they different?
  • Sellers never finds out the cause of her face blindness. She also never discovers a diagnosis for her father's strange, disturbing behaviors. A major theme running through the book is this: how do we come to know anything for certain, and how do we come to terms with what we will never know about our own families? In your experience, is this a universal truth of growing up?
  • There is so much chaos, difficulty, despair, and even terror in Sellers's childhood. Yet the author sees humor in mother's weird rituals, and finds delight in the perfect pink skirt. What do you make of the humor, warmth, honesty, and courage that runs through many of the chapters? What emotions did you experience while reading the book?
  • What do you make of Sellers's stance towards her family? Would you feel similarly or different, if the circumstances of your childhood were comparable to the difficult home life portrayed in You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know?
  • How do you think face blindness affected the author as a writer?
  • In the Afterword to the book, Sellers talks about "the gift of prosopagnosia." What do you think she sees as the gifts of face blindness? Are these truly gifts?
  • Sellers figures out her face blindness and her mother's illness almost simultaneously. How are the two quests similar? How are they different?
  • When Sellers presents her research and self-diagnosis to her primary care physician and then a local neurologist her certainty is met with disbelief. Have you had experiences where you weren't believed? How did you react? Does not being believed help us stake a claim?
  • Sellers recalls that when she presented her first draft of the memoir to her writer's group and an editor, people responded, This is too raw. How could you live this way? Is the story she tells "too raw"? Why or why not?
  • By Heather Sellers' own account, prosopagnosia (face blindness) caused her constant confusion and anxiety. Yet she did not identify her disability until she was nearly 40. Why did it take her so long?
  • When Sellers marries Dave, a warm and loving man with two sons, the marriage unravels almost before it begins. Why do you suppose they married? Why did they divorce? What does Sellers take away from each of those decisions?
  • Customer Reviews

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    You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Prepare yourself for sorrow and stark reality in You Don't Look like Anyone I Know. Illness propels this memoir, but the author's self-discovery of her face blindness and demands that her neurologist properly diagnose her, far outweighed any disquietude experienced by this reader. Coping with face blindness, the inability to recognize faces reliably seemed to me a secondary theme of this incredible memoir. Ms. Sellers' real triumph was surviving the war zone created by the illnesses of her parents. Her mother's paranoid tendencies, magnified by her protective instincts toward her children, were bizarre. Desperately desirous but fearful of seeing her father, Sellers manages to come to grips with his philandering and cross-dressing. In her book trailer, Ms. Sellers explains that prosopagnosia is a memory not a visual problem. She writes charitably and honestly about the family that branded her the crazy one. I didn't mind that her writing lacked cohesion at times. I thought it accurately reflected the chaos of her childhood. She manages to keep enough distance between herself and her story that I saw no self-pity. Rather she spoke graciously of her parents. At the end of her memoir she states that "deeply flawed love and deeply flawed vision can coexist." Reviewing a disturbing book is difficult. Many other reviewers have complained about yet another "disturbing childhood/dysfunctional family memoir." I agree many of those exist, but I submit that a book review is just that-a comment on the world the author has painted, not a woe-is-me about the reviewer's reading history. Despite the title, I found this memoir less about face blindness and more about the strength Ms. Sellers gleaned from her survival and her courage to trust her own perceptions. For a comfortable, relaxing read, find a romance novel. To unearth hard-hitting reality, sink your teeth into You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I looked forward to reading this book, but honestly, I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. The author really intends for the readers to believe she's taking a trip to see her parents and expects they will be "normal" (after what she supposedly went through as a child)? Really? I couldn't get past the first few chapters because it was so ridiculous a grown and educated woman would return to visit parents who she knows are mentally ill, and expect behavior vastly different. Also, the first few chapters contain numerous direct quotes involving conversations. I'm supposed to believe this is a nonfiction book when every conversation is direct quoted? Did she tape-record all of these conversations to know how to direct quote them? Again, it was a turn-off. Sorry, but I can't recommend this book. I think it's a work of fiction (as most memoirs are).
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    What a story teller! Reads like fiction, but one is drawn in deeper knowing this amazing account of life is not fiction but fact. Excellent, informative, educational read!
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I had to keep reminding myself this book is nonfiction. Love the way it's written, as if it's a novel--an interesting treatment for the subject. So hard to imagine living through such a childhood and coming out whole.
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    Angie Lampman More than 1 year ago
    I had expected more! Although I found Heather Sellers' writing style pulling me in, I kept thinking there would be more that what I got. Don't get me wrong...I enjoyed the book, learning about prosopagnosia and what Heather endured but some of her story read like fiction. I sometimes forgot that it was a biography because some of it seemed a little far-fetched. It was OK....and I can't say that I wouldn't recommend....but I'd be picky who I recommended it to.
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    Kaydebee More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book. My husband met Heather and told me about the book, he even purchased the book for me. I found the story very moving.
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    librarygal50 More than 1 year ago
    Loved the book!! It is hard to believe that any child can live through a childhood like this and succeed. I would recommend this book and did not mind buying this. I had trouble tearing myself away.
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