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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

The Cruelest Gift

Inherited Disease in the Age of DNA

by (author) Clark Blaise

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Dec 2021
Personal Memoirs, Medical
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2021
    List Price

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Revered Canadian fiction and non-fiction author Clark Blaise takes us on a deeply personal journey into the medical world of inherited diseases in this moving, revelatory memoir--by turns tragic, touching and inspiring--of a father and son, the love that binds them, the dark genetic heritage that may be embedded in family trees, and the hopes and dilemmas of today's latest scientific discoveries.
What do you do when you learn your child has a degenerative disease? When you learn that this disease is hereditary--that, unbeknownst to you, you have carried it your whole life? When you learn you have cursed him or her with a cruel heritage?
    This is the situation Clark Blaise and his wife found themselves in when their eldest son, Bart, was diagnosed with MMD, myotonic muscular dystrophy, which affects the muscles, heart, lungs and gastrointestinal system and leads to the loss of the most basic attributes: from walking to, ultimately, thinking.
     Blaise sets off on a quest to find the genesis of the disease--a search that takes him deep into his family's past, into the wild and isolated communities of rural Quebec where MMD is particularly common. In intimate interviews with his son--a rare and astoundingly personal case study--we learn through Bart's own voice--as well as Bernard's, Blaise's second son who has inherited juvenile diabetes from his mother's side--what it feels like to live with an inherited illness. In interviews with doctors, scientists and science researchers, we understand the interplay of genetic diseases with family life. And Blaise grapples with the sense of guilt for having passed on a devastating condition to his beloved, brilliant son, asking hard questions about the responsibilities of a parent when the gift of life may be the cruelest gift of all.

About the author

Clark Blaise has taught in Montreal, Toronto, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, as well as at Skidmore College, Columbia University, Iowa, NYU, Sarah Lawrence and Emory. For several years he directed the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Among the most widely travelled of authors, he has taught or lectured in Japan, India, Singapore, Australia, Finland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Holland, Germany, Haiti and Mexico. He lived for years in San Francisco, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley. He is married to the novelist Bharati Mukherjee and currently divides his time between San Francisco and Southampton, Long Island. In 2002, he was elected president of the Society for the Study of the Short Story. In 2003, he was given an award for exceptional achievement by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2009, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada ``for his contributions to Canadian letters as an author, essayist, teacher, and founder of the post-graduate program in creative writing at Concordia University``.

Clark Blaise's profile page

Other titles by Clark Blaise