2 out of 4 stars
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Isn’t it true that we always see the worst versions of ourselves and have a harder time acknowledging our strengths than we do numerating our flaws? It seems that author, Dr. Branton Holmberg, fit snugly into that self-depreciating box and despite his extensive accomplishments, riddled himself with doubt throughout his long life. His book, Agony and Ecstasy of Finding My Voice: A Memoir, showcases how he was set apart because of his cleft lip, cleft palate, and accompanying altered speech.
This self-told account begins in his youth when he was teased and shamed by other children for his facial asymmetry and atypical speech. He recounts his embarrassment and humiliations and how those perceptions affected his lifelong self-image. Over the years Dr. Holmberg underwent surgeries and eventually received a dental appliance to improve his speech.
Although he is an accomplished Air Force medic, college professor, sensitivity training specialist, small business owner and doctor of psychology, the author admitted he did not always feel the confidence that should have come with his accolades. He particularly remembers being too scared to move forward with his first teaching job because of his certainty in students’ private ridicule. Surprising revelations after pushing past his fears, and after receiving his oral device, led him to realize he was never the outsider he imagined.
His youthful excursions were the most impressive part of the book for me. I enjoyed chuckling at the mindset of a young man and the schemes he hatched with friends. Sadly, though Dr. Holmberg’s life must have been interesting, that was the beginning and end of my interest in this book. He spent the first forty percent of the story robotically detailing his life, but after that, he alarmingly chose to spend over half of the book copy-pasting excerpts from his other publications.
After losing his voice to a laryngectomy, he turned to writing fantasy as a way to connect with his grandchildren. Modeling his characters mainly after himself and his grandson, Dr. Holmberg chose to use his memoir as a shameless advert for these books. He included a replica of one entire book, along with 4-6 chapters from two other books. That was the total content of more than half of this autobiography.
Not only was I appalled by the second-half, I was mostly disappointed with the rest. Of the chapters that were based on his life, the two last were simple restatements of the others with added commentary reflecting his feelings. The writing contained countless errors throughout, many of which were the contents of run-on sentences. It seemed items that would normally be asides or parenthetical remarks were otherwise added to sentences with no implementation of transitional or conjunctive phrases.
Readers who’ve experienced cleft palate or lip deformities or members of the psychology community particularly interested in the early years of sensitivity training may find areas of enjoyment in this book. Beyond that, I would not recommend this read. Losing one star for the shocking inclusion of complete books within this one, and losing a second for the lack of editing altogether, I am rating this book 2 out of 4 stars. Dr. Holmberg repeatedly marked how his life trials fostered his self-determination, and I hope the challenges of this book are met with the same life’s vigor he utilized in the past.
Agony and Ecstasy of Finding my Voice: a Memoir
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