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Golem Girl

Barbellion Prize, 2021

ebook / ISBN-13: 9780349014807

Price: £12.99

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‘A hymn to life, love, family, and spirit’ DAVID MITCHELL, author of Cloud Atlas

The vividly told, gloriously illustrated memoir of an artist born with disabilities who searches for freedom and connection in a society afraid of strange bodies.


In 1958, amongst the children born with spina bifida is Riva Lehrer. She endures endless medical procedures and is told she will never have a job, a romantic relationship or an independent life. But everything changes when as an adult Riva is invited to join a group of artists, writers, and performers who are building Disability Culture. Their work is daring, edgy, funny, and dark, and it rejects tropes that define disabled people as pathetic, frightening or worthless, instead insisting that disability is an opportunity for creativity and resistance. Riva begins to paint their portraits – and her art begins to transform the myths she’s been told her whole life about her body, her sexuality, and other measures of normal.

‘A brilliant book, full of strangeness, beauty, and wonder’ Audrey Niffenegger

‘Wonderful. An ode to art and the beauty of disability’ Cerrie Burnell

‘Stunning’ Alison Bechdel



A chronicle of a free spirit who finds solace and purpose in creating art that represents the socially challenged body... [readers] will respond to Lehrer's remarkable resilience and robust sense of humor
Booklist (starred review)
Oy, what a story: Job, eat your heart out! In Riva Lehrer's life chronicle, an appalling fate (and I don't just mean the circumstances of her birth) gets visited upon an invincible character, and the result is a wincing-wise tale, by turns harrowing and hilarious, cut clean through with flecks of grace and beauty. Lehrer is one wry mensch, and an extraordinary kinstler to boot
Lawrence Weschler
This astonishing, heart soaring and often shocking memoir of a Jewish woman with spina Bifida born in the 50's is bright and dark, terrifying and wonderful. An ode to art and the beauty of disability
Cerrie Burnell
Readers will be sucked into Lehrer's powerful memoir
Publishers Weekly
Luminous; a profound portrait of the artist as a young-and mature-woman; an unflinching social history of disability over the last six decades; and a hymn to life, love, family, and spirit
David Mitchell
One of the most dedicated, stalwart, witty, funny people that I've ever met
Mat Fraser
Not your typical memoir about 'what it's like to be disabled in a non-disabled world . . . Lehrer tells her stories about becoming the monster she was always meant to be: glorious, defiant, unbound, and voracious. Read it!
Alice Wong, founder and director, Disability Visibility Project
Vivid . . . unforgettable . . . It is the story of how someone who is fundamentally different made not a life that transcends that difference, but a life that lionizes it. This book expands our notion of what constitutes the human experience, and it does so with generosity and open-heartedness
Andrew Solomon
With deft painter's prose, Riva Lehrer helps us discover what it is to be human when others see us as broken. In Golem Girl, Lehrer gives us the gift, at long last, of our own crip beauty
Nicola Griffith, author of HILD
Riva Lehrer is a great artist and a great storyteller. This is a brilliant book, full of strangeness, beauty, and wonder
Audrey Niffenegger
Every bit as powerful as Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face ... An extraordinary memoir suffused with generosity, consistent insight, and striking artwork
Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
An extraordinary memoir in which Riva Lehrer charts with great humour and intimacy her life story, growing up in America with the spina bifida condition . . . Throughout this powerful book - which took her six and a half years to write - Lehrer draws the reader in, giving the sense of what it is like to be on the margins of society, and having metaphorically to shriek to get the mainstream to pay attention
Jewish Chronicle
Lehrer's story is a revelation of an inner subjective life-full of tragedy, love, and creativity-pushing against the external social stigmas, cultural narratives, and prejudices surrounding disability. She admits a felt kinship with other 'monsters' because their bodies were also 'built by human hands', but unlike them, she is her own purpose, her own meaning, her own unstoppable golem
Stephen Asma
This searing personal history expands Lehrer's project of looking at our bodies inside and out, in all their queerness, fragility, and strength, into a stunning new dimension
Alison Bechdel