Review: Dwarf: A Memoir of How One Woman Fought for a Body-and a Life-She Was Never Supposed to Have by Tiffanie DiDonato and Rennie Dyball

dwarfPublished by Plume
Released November 27, 2012
256 pages
Where I got it: Public library
Rating: ?????

Description (from Goodreads):

“It’s okay with me if you picked up this book because you’re curious about what it’s like to live with dwarfism. But I hope that you’ll take away much more–about adapting to the world when it won’t adapt to you.”–from “Dwarf ”
A memoir of grit and transformation for anyone who has been told something was impossible and then went on to do it anyway.
Tiffanie DiDonato was born with dwarfism. Her limbs were so short that she was not able to reach her own ears. She was also born with a serious case of optimism. She decided to undergo a series of painful surgeries that gave her an unprecedented 14 inches of height–and the independence she never thought she’d have.
After her surgeries, Tiffanie was able to learn to drive, to live in the dorms during college, and to lead a normal life. She even made time to volunteer, writing to troops stationed abroad, and one of those Marine pen pals ultimately became her husband.
“Dwarf “is a moving and at times funny testament to the power of sheer determination.

I was so looking forward to reading this book since I’d first seen the cover and blurb on Edelweiss all those months ago. The cover looks quirky and fun, and just like DiDonato says at the beginning of the blurb, I really wanted to know firsthand what it’s like to live with dwarfism. Sadly, the book just didn’t deliver on any of those counts. Instead, this is one woman’s story about her own life up until her very early thirties. Still, it could have been compelling, except that I just did not care about Tiffanie DiDonato.

I actually came to actively dislike Tiffanie. If I hadn’t been rushing to finish my yearly reading challenge, I probably would have abandoned this book. Tiffanie comes across as a childish, self-aggrandizing, spoiled brat who happens to have been born with a serious medical condition that made simple things, like brushing her own hair, impossible. Tiffanie was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to stretch (get it!?) the limits of the newest medical innovations for limb lengthening that were available to her in her childhood and teen years. Tiffanie got blowback from some of the dwarf community for her drastic body modification, but can you blame her for wanting to be self-sufficient? I can’t.

What I can blame Tiffanie for is how she never mentions in this book the monetary costs of her operations. These are procedures that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I see two probable ways these were paid for: a) her parents, b) her insurance. If it was by her parents, then she does not even come close to giving them the huge thanks they deserve for what would be a huge sacrifice. Her parents come across as well-meaning and indulgent, but in their concern for her I think she became very spoiled. At one point, she gets into what she calls a “fender bender” on her drive back to college. When her sorority sister suggests she get her car fixed soon, she laughs it off and has her parents just buy her a new BMW Z3. Yes, seriously. Her sweet sixteen involves a limo ride to a fancy restaurant, as well as other flippantly offered shows that money is clearly not much of a concern of hers. Scenario b, the insurance, would mean that the cost of her surgery, surgery that many doctors would not have been willing to do, was passed on to the other insurance subscribers, raising the rates for everyone. But I’m sure Tiffanie deserves it.

Another reason she was so detestable? When ONE teacher mentioned her dwarfism, her parents tried to get that teacher fired. When that didn’t work, Tiffanie set out with the internet to try to bring the teacher down with a computer virus, and spread her phone number around for awful phone calls. She never seems sorry for any of this, but is gleeful. Time to get over it, “Tiffie.”

I gagged at the end when I came to the description of her fairytale wedding, complete with real trees her parents decorated at her insistence of it looking like an enchanted forest.

Yes, this book was a quick read, and I’m really glad for that, because I wouldn’t want to spend another moment with Tiffanie.

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