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A unique chronicle of childhood polio told with a remarkable blend of provocative reflection, humor, and pluck.

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.

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.

“…a vivid portrait of what it was like to grow up shadowed by a plague and how a sense of family can arise among people thrown together by miserable circumstances … Chase brings her poetic sensibilities to the page in discussions of the way history is not just huge wars and battles but small, personal skirmishes too … she elegantly conveys the experience of one small part of the world—her own—at a particular point in a much larger history.” — Library Journal

“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

“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
Love of home life, the intimate moments a family peacefully enjoyed in seclusion, had long been considered a hallmark of English character even before the Victorian era. But the Victorians attached unprecedented importance to domesticity, romanticizing the family in every medium from novels to government reports, to the point where actual families felt anxious and the public developed a fierce appetite for scandal. Here Karen Chase and Michael Levenson explore how intimacy became a spectacle and how this paradox energized Victorian culture between 1835 and 1865. They tell a story of a society continually perfecting the forms of private pleasure and yet forever finding its secrets exposed to view. The friction between the two conditions sparks insightful discussions of authority and sentiment, empire and middle-class politics.

The book recovers neglected episodes of this mid-century drama: the adultery trial of Caroline Norton and the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne; the Bedchamber Crisis of the young Queen Victoria; the Bloomer craze of the 1850s; and Robert Kerr's influential treatise, celebrating the ideal of the English Gentleman's House. The literary representation of household life--in Dickens, Tennyson, Ellis, and Oliphant, among others--is placed in relation to such public spectacles as the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill of 1848, the controversy over divorce in the years 1854-1857, and the triumphant return of Florence Nightingale from the Crimea. These colorful incidents create a telling new portrait of Victorian family life, one that demands a fundamental rethinking of the relation between public and private spheres.

For more than a decade, Karen Chase taught poetry writing to severely incapacitated patients at a large psychiatric hospital outside of New York City. During that time, she began working with Ben, a handsome, formerly popular and athletic young man who had given up speaking and had withdrawn from social interaction. Meeting on the locked ward every week for two years, Chase and Ben passed a pad of paper back and forth, taking turns writing one line of poetry each, ultimately producing 180 poems that responded to, diverged from, and built on each other’s words. Land of Stone is Chase’s account of writing with Ben, an experience that was deeply transformative for both poet and patient. In Chase’s engrossing narrative, readers will find inspiration in the power of writing to change and heal, as well as a compelling firsthand look at the relationship between poet and patient. As she tells of Ben’s struggle to come out of silence, Chase also recounts the issues in her own life that she confronts by writing with Ben, including her mother’s recent death and a childhood struggle with polio. Also, since poetry writing seems to reach Ben in a way that his clinical therapy cannot, Chase describes and analyzes Ben’s writing in detail to investigate the changes that appeared to be taking place in him as their work progressed. A separate section presents twenty-two poems that Chase wrote with Ben, selected to show his linguistic development over time, and a final section offers Chase’s thoughtful reflections on the creative process. Land of Stone will provide honest and valuable insight to psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, alternative therapists, and other mental health practitioners, and will also surely be of interest to creative writers, teachers, linguists, and anyone looking to explore the connections between language and healing.
 Presents and expands upon Roosevelt’s daily nautical log as he was trying to regain the use of his polio-damaged legs.
In the midst of the Jazz Age, while Americans were making merry, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken by polio and withdrew from public life. From 1924 to 1926, believing that warm water and warm air would help him walk again, he spent the winter months on his new houseboat, the Larooco, sailing the Florida Keys, fishing, swimming, playing Parcheesi, entertaining guests, and tending to engine mishaps. During his time on the boat, he kept a nautical log describing each day’s events, including rare visits by his wife, Eleanor, who was busy carving out her own place in the world. Missy LeHand, his personal assistant, served as hostess aboard the Larooco.

While FDR was sailing the Keys, the larger world was glittering. Chaplin, Gershwin, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Gertrude Stein, Frida Kahlo, Martha Graham—all were flourishing in the Roaring Twenties, but so were Stalin, Al Capone, and Hitler. The world went on as Roosevelt fished for mangrove snapper and drank martinis.

Karen Chase presents FDR’s log entries, interspersed with photographs from the tumultuous outer world, to form a kind of timeline between two arenas—one man’s small private life full of struggle and fun, juxtaposed with the large public sphere. Chase gives us a side of FDR seldom seen before, revealing his wit, his penchant for practical jokes, and his zest for each day’s ordinary concerns in the context of his painful struggle to regain the use of his legs. The book also includes a facsimile of the original Larooco log. For many decades FDR’s log was virtually unknown to the public, appearing only once, in 1949, in his son Elliott’s four-volume collection of Roosevelt’s personal letters.

“What a good idea! The little-known record of one of the least understood periods in the life of Franklin Roosevelt, filled with all the grit and gallantry and good humor with which he faced the disease that would have defeated a less resilient man.” — Geoffrey C. Ward, coauthor (with Ken Burns) of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and author of A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt, 1905–1928

“The Larooco Log is a wonderfully powerful chronicle of perhaps the most difficult period in FDR’s personal life: the aftermath of the onset of his bout with polio and his enduring struggle to find remedy. In his own words, the log demonstrates his wit and charm, his embrace of life and friends, his frustrations with his slow progress toward restoration of his legs, and the pain he endures on an almost daily basis. With personal understanding and feeling, Karen Chase has performed a masterful edit of this revealing journal. A fantastic read!” — David B. Roosevelt, FDR’s grandson

“Karen Chase has put together an absolutely fascinating edition of the log describing Franklin Roosevelt’s winter cruises along the Florida coast in 1924–26. Wonderfully illustrated and edited, this is a book that will appeal to historians, FDR aficionados, Floridians, fishermen, and boaters of all kinds. Highly recommended.” — Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex and Valiant Ambition
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