As a playwright, solo theater artist, writer for Nickelodeon and PBS, multi-talented Alice Eve Cohen has been honored with fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. She also teaches at The New School in New York City and one would believe Alice knows a lot. And that was true until 1999 when her body turned everything she thought she knew to be true into falsehoods and unknowns. Seven years later Alice was finally able to apply her creative talent to sharing this very personal journey in What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir.
Anne Lamott, Salon.com BEST BOOKS OF 2009: “Everything we love in a book — profound, honest, hilarious, humane, surprising.”
Here is a brief introduction/description to What I Thought I Knew:
A personal and medical odyssey beyond anything most women would believe possible
At age forty-four, Alice Eve Cohen was happy for the first time in years. After a difficult divorce, she was engaged to an inspiring man, joyfully raising her adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming. Alice tells her fiancé that she’s never been happier. And then the stomach pains begin.
In her unflinchingly honest and ruefully witty voice, Alice nimbly carries us through her metamorphosis from a woman who has come to terms with infertility to one who struggles to love a heartbeat found in her womb – six months into a high-risk pregnancy.
In What I Thought I Knew, Cohen has applied her theatrical sensibility to create a page turning thriller of a memoir. Cohen’s journey through a broken healthcare system and the farthest reaches of her own spiritual faith is laden with memorable characters and surprising twists and turns. A powerful story with an endearingly honest heroine, and rich insights into family relationships, What I Thought I Knew is timely, compelling, and utterly unforgettable.
Timely? The memoir debuted in Summer 2009 when Alice appeared on CBS’ The Early Show, detailing more of her story while answering Harry Smith’s questions. Please watch this interview:(If the video does not appear on your monitor, please watch the video here.)
Now it’s your time to read a brief Excerpt from What I Thought I Knew, courtesy NYT Books.
The element of time — its pressures and consequences — play a major character role in this remarkable story. Writing in a November 11, 2010 Guest Post: Infertil-i(denti)ty by Alice Eve Cohen for Bless Their Hearts Mom blog, the author explains:
“My crazy quilt journey with infertility began before I was born. When I was twenty, I learned that I might be infertile, a result of my exposure to DES—the anti-miscarriage drug my mother took when she was pregnant with me. Uncertainty about my fertility became part of my identity.
In my early thirties, I wanted to have a baby, but my fertility doctor confirmed my fears. “’Your estrogen level is so low that you couldn’t possibly get pregnant. And you should NEVER attempt to become pregnant with fertility drugs! With your small, deformed uterus, there’s no way you could carry a baby past six months.’” He added, “The good news, Alice—You’ll never have to use birth control again!’”
No garden-variety infertility, mine was super-deluxe, intervention-proof, and absolute. My identity as an infertile woman was lodged impermeably in my consciousness. On the bright side, this level of certainty made it easy to decide to adopt.”
Less than tactful as well as wrong, this doctor is the first of many the reader meets while accompanying Alice through her journey to find medical truths. Yes, the names have been changed to protect them all for as Alice says:
“There are good guys and bad guys in my story, from all corners of the healthcare system. My health insurance company was woefully inadequate, and some doctors made idiotic mistakes. But I also encountered brilliant doctors and therapists who were selflessly dedicated to their patients.”
Of course it took time for the author to rationally reflect on what happened to her and this writing of What I Thought I Knew helped to sort out and work through a period of life that was both confusing and troubling. And, although staging the story (as a major performance) in her theater artist role was unthinkable, the playwright did structure her memoir by writing it in three acts with each act divided into scenes. The dialogue reveals action in the scenes, and the reflective narration throughout the book works much the same as solo theater monologue. The result is an intimacy and immediacy to literally everything Alice endures. However, since its similar to theater, the experience is absolutely entertaining.
In other words there’s nothing to fear about this story. Reading it will prove fascinating, frustrating, startling, poignant, sweet, bittersweet, and humorous. That’s correct, be prepared to laugh out loud at the ridiculous absurdity of it all. And, not to worry, about laughing at Alice’s troubles and trials for now she even encourages others to laugh as well as ponder.
What I Thought I Knew Video:
(If the video does not appear on your monitor, please watch the video here.)
What Alice Eve Cohen knows now is that her book holds a universal message for anybody who’s experienced difficult times, and that includes almost everyone. She also knows:
“I’m fortunate that our family crisis and our new understandings that came out of it did ultimately make us stronger. There were times in my journey when I feared for my daughter’s life and for my own. Somehow, my family, my marriage, my children and I all survived and thrived, despite (or maybe because of) the storm we weathered together.”
What The Divining Wand knows about What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir is that it’s a timely book for the season. After all, in this holiday season of miracles, could there be a better, more triumphant story than this miracle of eleven years ago? Yes Elianna celebrates her eleventh birthday next Monday, December 13th. Celebrate that joy by reading — as well as gifting — her journey to birth and beyond told through her mother’s despair, confusion, hope, and everlasting love!
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Alice Eve Cohen’s What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.