Basic Books/HarperCollins $23 USA $32.50 CDN
Wonderfully written, with courage, warmth, and wit. . . . This is a powerful story of growing up, shedding illusions, and coping with life. I think that everyone who stutters and every speech-language pathologist who works with stutterers should read it. In fact, so should anyone interested in the human condition." BARRY GUITAR, PH.D, CCC-SLP, Professor, University of Vermont, Co-author, Stuttering: An Integrated Approach to Its Nature and Treatment
"As a stutterer who is always afraid of speaking but is rarely able to keep his mouth shut, I have a story to tell." So writes Marty Jezer in this insightful and invaluable book about stuttering that, by necessity, is also a work about speaking, silence, and the pleasures and pitfalls of everyday communication.
With eloquence and passion, Jezer delves into his lifelong struggle with fluent speech. "I live on both sides of the disability dilemma," he says. "As long as I keep silent, I look like a normal fluent person. But every time I talk, I put this identity on the line. The need to speak and the probability of stuttering are the dominant facts of my life."
This is a book about persistence and pluck, denial and fear. With humorous and poignant personal anecdotes, Jezer recalls being a student, too embarrassed to speak in class yet humiliated by his own chosen silence. Afraid to phone girls, he found ingenious ways to ask them out on dates. Apprehensive of raising children, he delighted in reading to his daughter. Told at a job interview that he was unemployable, he created his own career.
In an endless effort to "cure" his stuttering, Jezer has tried many kinds of speech therapy and psychotherapy, and even volunteered as a guinea pig to test an experimental drug. Supportive, though critical, of existing therapies, he's insistent that issues of identity, self-acceptance, and self-esteem are as vital as fluency techniques. Through the examples of new-found friends in the self-help movement for people who stutter, he learned to take responsibility for his speech. Although Jezer still stutters, he's no longer afraid to speak.
However unique stuttering is as a disability, the daily embarrassments and deeper psychic indignities that stutterers face, if not universal, are commonplace. The defeats of giving in to them and the triumphs of overcoming them are, as Jezer writes, the drama of life.
Aristotle described the stutterer's tongue as "too sluggish to keep pace with the imagination." Quite the contrary; Marty Jezer may stutter, but he is seldom at a loss for words.
MARTY JEZER has published biographies of Rachel Carson and Abbie Hoffman and The Dark Ages: Life in the USA 1945-1960. He lives in Brattleboro, Vermont.
"Marty Jezer had me totally captivated from page one. He's an absolutely engaging story teller, and he looks at chronic stuttering from so many different perspectives that you cannot help but come away with an intuitive understanding of the many ways the individual is affected." JOHN C. HARRISON, Program Director, National Stuttering Project
"Marty Jezer's Stuttering lives and breathes on the general level of self- awareness and self-discovery. It provides insights for all of us, and much laughter." GRACE PALEY, author
"Totally absorbing. Jezer has accomplished an admirable interweaving of his experiences and introspections as a stutterer with a great deal of accurate information about stuttering and its treatment. This book should be of very considerable value to stutterers and their parents. . . . (it) offers a compelling glimpse of the inner life of a stutterer." OLIVER BLOODSTEIN, Speech and Hearing Center, Brooklyn College. Author, A Handbook on Stuttering
"An important contribution. More informative about stuttering than any other personal account. The insights are quite profound." C. WOODRUFF STARKWEATHER, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Co-Director, Birch Tree Foundation and co-author of Stuttering
"Fascinating. . . . Jezer combines his considerable literary skills with his history as someone who has lived with an intensely personal, severe, and chronic stuttering problem. . . . This is more than a book about stuttering. It is also a book about empathy, understanding, advocacy, and change." STEPHEN B. HOOD, PH.D., director, Speech and Hearing Center, University of South Alabama
This book is a powerful antidote to that view. A vivid picture of the world of stuttering as seen from the inside looking out." WILLIAM H. PERKINS, former director, Stuttering Center, University of Southern California, and author of Stuttering and Science
Marty Jezer presents insights pertaining to the nature and treatment of stuttering that will be helpful to speech-language pathologists, students, persons who stutter, and the families and partners of persons who stutter. I highly recommend it. PETER R. RAMIG, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Speech, Language, Hearing Sciences, University of Colorado "This graceful, eloquent book speaks in perfect pitch. Jezer's account of reading the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah had me laughing aloud. His adventures with therapeutic miracle cures are reported with hard-earned philosophic wisdom. A flat-out winner." SUSAN BROWNMILLER, author
"A useful, interesting, touching book. As a stutterer, I found plenty of points of connection in it, and others will too. EDWARD HOAGLAND, essayist, novelist, teacher.
Jezer (Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel, 1992, etc.), a '60s revolutionary, a supporter of environmentalism and feminism, and a chronicler of New Age self-fulfillment, focuses here on the mechanical and psychological dynamics of his chronic, often severe stuttering. Even before getting involved in the author's childhood traumas, the reader must adjust to a plethora of technical terms involving the mechanics of speech, along with competing theories and therapies to contain disfluency. But that adjustment is easy because Jezer, when he's discussing relevant obits of genetics, neurology, or psychology never loses sight of the universality of themes like human communication, vulnerability, and self-worth. In fact, there's a nice mix of the personal and the general throughout. The snapshots of Jezer's long struggle are vivid. Growing up "loquacious in thought" only, he requires "an act of God" to spare him from sounding like "Porky Pig...reciting prayer at a Jewish temple" at his bar mitzvah. The pain of growing up with a handicap in the "it's all in your mind" 50s doesn't much moderate as the author, now grown, copes with employment and relationship problems. This highly communicative writer describes the stutterer's fear of telephones. and tape recorders, and describes various speech therapists, their methods, philosophies, and relative successes. We also discover that the breathy speech of Marilyn Monroe and the oratorical exactness of Winston Churchill were the results of compensating for their stuttering. Jezer, the Bronx adman who takes on union busters and Klansmen, matures into a ponytailed Vermonter who finally achieves 60 percent fluency after overcoming laryngospasm and mastering continuity with syllable stretching exercises.
A "Zen and the Art of Speech Therapy," deftly mingling the particulars of s humiliating struggle with the wider disruptions and challengers of life.