Relating to people



What’s it about?
Redeployment is a book of short stories written by a former marine. All the stories are, in some ways, about adjusting to civilian life after being stationed in Iraq. The men live spartan lives, and their emotional landscapes have completely changed. The men who weren’t in combat feel less worthy than those who were.

Why should you read it?
I read Redeployment right after The Empathy Exams, and the juxtaposition was interesting. Redeployment hits some of the same themes: trying to figure out what it means to be a person, particularly after you’ve been asked to do some heroic but mentally unhealthy things. How do you get back to personhood? How do other people see you? Are they empathetic? Why or why not? It’s a compelling read.

Thoughtful feeling

the empathy exams


What’s it about?
The Empathy Exams is a series of personal essays – if they were strung into one, this would be a memoir. The first one is titled The Empathy Exams, and it’s about her job at a medical school. She’s required to portray different patients with different ailments and symptoms and willingnesses to talk about those symptoms. The medical students are required to talk to her to gather information to diagnose her, but also to improve their bedside manner. After the interviews, she has to grade them on, among other things, their empathy. Did the students make her feel like they felt her pain? She also gains a lot of insight into what empathy is. The rest of the essays in the book are about her putting herself into situations (or situations she’s already been in) and empathizing with the people around her. What can she learn about humanity?

Why should you read it?
Because learning about people and sympathizing with people is a good thing. Seriously, The Empathy Exams is an eloquent exploration of what it means to be a person. The author does a good job at making you feel her apprehension at getting an abortion. She communicates the horror of living in a world where drug lords are fighting for territory. But it’s never too heavy. It’s thoughtful. I enjoyed it.