Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Polio Boulevard our nation marks the 60th anniversary of the polio vaccine and PBS prepares to broadcast Ken Burns's documentary on the Roosevelts this fall, Karen Chase's POLIO BOULEVARD, (Excelsior Editions/State University of New York Press; September 1, 2014; $19.95; 100 pages; 16 black and white illustrations) mines territory that will be front-of-mind as part of an on-going and important national dialogue.

Told with a remarkable blend of candor, humor, and grace, POLIO BOULEVARD is Chase's unique personal chronicle of a childhood turned upside down by polio. In a narrative that alternates between present and past, Chase brings the reader back to the 1950s polio outbreak that crippled our country and gives us an intimate look at what it was like to live with and survive from this disease. Chase found relief and comfort in artistic expression and her rich imagination. Her uniquely expressive way with words is on display in POLIO BOULEVARD as she reminds us all that big and small, history is everyone, everywhere.

In the meantime, there is more information about the book and author below and you can find out more by visiting:

"In the early '50s, during the polio epidemic, I worked as a physical therapist. I saw firsthand the crushing suffering children and their families endured. I also saw their bravery and love for each other. Karen's memoir is a truly remarkable piece of history." --Olympia Dukakis

"Polio and poetry would seem to be near-opposites. Yet in Karen Chase's compelling memoir of a terrifying disease she and so many others contracted in childhood, we watch polio's unwelcome transformations to be matched and outdone by the twists and turns of a poet's mind. Bravely and with surprising humor, Chase has turned the unlikely, the unlucky, even the tragic into beauty." --Mary Jo Salter, poet and author of Nothing By Design and A Phone Call to the Future

In 1954, Karen Chase was a ten-year-old girl playing Monopoly in the polio ward when the radio blared out the news that Dr. Jonas Salk had developed the polio vaccine. The discovery came too late for her, and Polio Boulevard is Chase's unique chronicle of her childhood while fighting polio. From her lively sickbed she experiences puppy love, applies to the Barbizon School of Modeling, and dreams of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a polio patient who became President of the United States (a man who continues to fascinate and inspire her to this day).

Chase, now an accomplished poet who survived her illness, tells a story that flows backward and forward in time from childhood to adulthood. Woven throughout are the themes of how private and public history get braided together, how imagination is shaped when your body can't move but your mind can, and how sexuality blooms in a young girl laid up in bed. Chase's imagination soars in this narrative of illness and recovery, a remarkable blend of provocative reflection, humor, and pluck.

Karen Chase is the author of two volumes of poetry: Kazimierz Square and Bear, as well as Land of Stone: Breaking Silence Through Poetry and Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India. Her next writing project is about FDR.