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WRITING WITH SCOLIOSIS

by Aurelie Sheehan

book history lesson for girls by aurelie sheehan

This year I published my second novel, a story about a girl with scoliosis. History Lesson for Girls is not an autobiography, but the scoliosis aspect of the story is inspired by my own experience. I was diagnosed with a curvature of the spine when I was eleven, and wore the Milwaukee brace from then until I was thirteen.

     Do people need to suffer to create? Of course not, and yet discovering I had scoliosis and wearing a brace most definitely had something to do with my becoming a writer. The day my parents and I came home from my first appointment with the orthopedic surgeon –the day I got an X-ray and saw my spine’s eerie tumble into an S-curve for the first time, and the doctor sent us marching off to the brace-maker’s to be fitted for a Milwaukee brace– was also the day I wrote my first poem.

     It’s not that I hadn’t penned a few rhymes before. We’d learned about poetry in school, and both my parents were writers, so the concept of writing was always in the air, books were part of the household. But after that doctor’s appointment, contemplating a future that would involve wearing a brace twenty-three hours a day for what could amount to years, I walked upstairs to my room and closed the door. Like a zombie I got out a notebook and a pen and kneeled in front of my bed. Methodically, somberly, I wrote, trying to make sense of what was happening to me. It was the first time I wrote out of need.

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