Pale Girl Speaks
A Year Uncovered
By Hillary Fogelson
(Seal Press, Paperback, 9781580054447, 328pp.)
Publication Date: September 2012
Categories: Personal Memoirs
Hillary Fogelson led a charmed life: as the young wife of a successful Hollywood executive, her only major concerns were her acting auditions, interior decorating, and unexpected visits from her high-maintenance parents. Then, one day, her doctor told her she had malignant melanomaa cancer that leads to more deaths for women between the age of 25 and 30 than any otherand her life was forever changed.
Pale Girl Speaks is the darkly funny story of Fogelson’s neuroses and struggles after her diagnosis with melanoma. In her witty, wisecracking narrative, Fogelson recounts how her battle with cancer brings up other issues in her life that she’s been ignoring, especially her anxieties about her relationship with her husband, her friends, and her parents. The apprehension she feels soon manifests itself in more concrete wayspanic attacks, heavy reliance on alcohol, and a compulsive need to constantly check in with her doctorbut when her father discovers that he has melanoma as well, Fogelson has to learn to lead by example and let go of her fear. A story that will appeal to anyone who has faced adversity and lived to tell jokes about it, Pale Girl Speaks is about one woman who experienced the worst possible fallout of being fair-skinnedand survived with her sense of humor intact.
Hillary Fogelson is a writer, blogger, tweeter, melanoma survivor, sun protection activist and sunscreen guru. She works to spread the word about sun protection on her website and on Twitter (@palegirlspeaks). A graduate of NYU, she lives in the shadows of the Hollywood sign with her husband, two daughters, and dog Alvin.
Composed as a screenplay with truncated chapters, very little exposition, and lots of punchy dialog, L.A. blogger Fogelson's memoir mines the panic and fear she felt when diagnosed with skin cancer just as she and her husband were thinking of having children. In her mid-20s, fair-complexioned, and a veteran sun worshiper, Fogelson had to make an about-face when her dermatologist revealed that a malignant melanoma required immediate surgery. She got strong support from family members including her clean-freak mother, laconic father, and TV-producer husband, Adam. And there were numerous, attentive doctors, all of whose quirky personalities are revealed via the book's dialogue. Fogelson renders her terrified, in-the-moment impressions as laugh-out-loud scenes. Trying to be admirably "proactive" as a cancer patient, she grew obsessively controlling about treatment and staying informed, calling her doctor repeatedly to find out test results, questioning whether surgery had removed the right mole, and applying vats of sunscreen. The experience was certainly bracing, but Fogelson's snappy account proves energetic and wonderfully accessible. —Publishers Weekly