Jessica Handler

Jessica Handler is the author of Invisible Sisters: A MemoirBraving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss and The Magnetic Girl. Her nonfiction has appeared on NPR, in Tin HouseDrunken Boat, The Bitter SouthernerBrevity, Creative NonfictionNewsweek, The Washington Post, and More Magazine, to name a few. A founding member of the board of the Decatur Writers Studio in Decatur, Georgia, she teaches creative writing and coordinates the Minor in Writing at Oglethorpe University, and lectures internationally on writing well about trauma. 

 

Visit Jessica’s author site: http://jessicahandler.com/ 

Invisible Sisters: A Memoir 
University of Georgia Press, 2015

When Jessica Handler was eight years old, her younger sister Susie was diagnosed with leukemia. To any family, the diagnosis would have been upending, but to the Handlers, whose youngest daughter, Sarah, had been born with a rare, fatal blood disorder, it was an unimaginable verdict. Struck by the unlikelihood of siblings sick with diametrically opposed illnesses, the medical community labeled the Handlers’ situation a bizarre coincidence. To their mother, the girls’ unlikely diagnoses constituted a reverse miracle–the sort no one wishes for. By the time she was nine years old, Jessica had begun to introduce herself as the “well sibling.”

Deeply moving and exquisitely written, Invisible Sisters is an extraordinary story of coming of age as the odd one out–as the daughter of progressive Jewish parents who moved to the South to participate in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as the healthy sister among sick, and eventually, as the only sister left standing. In a book that is as hard to forget as it is to put down, Handler captures the devastating effects of illness and death on a family and the triumphant account of one woman’s enduring journey to step out of the shadow of loss to find herself anew.

Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss 
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013

Braving the Fire is the first book to provide a road map for the journey of writing honestly about grief and loss. Created specifically by and for the writer who has experienced illness, loss, or the death of a loved one, Braving the Fire takes the writers’ perspective in exploring the challenges and rewards for the writer who has chosen, with courage and candor, to be the memory keeper. It will be useful to the memoirist just starting out, as well as those already in the throes of coming to terms with complicated emotions and the challenges of shaping a compelling, coherent true story.

Loosely organized around the familiar Kübler-Ross model of Five Stages of Grief, Braving the Fire uses these stages to help the reader and writer though the emotional and writing tasks before them, incorporating interviews and excerpts from other treasured writers who’ve done the same. Insightful contributions from Nick Flynn, Darin Strauss, Kathryn Rhett, Natasha Trethewey, and Neil White, among others, are skillfully bended with Handler’s own approaches to facing grief a second time to be able to write about it. Each section also includes advice and wisdom from leading doctors and therapists about the physical experience of grieving. Handler is a compassionate guide who has braved the fire herself, and delivers practical and inspirational direction throughout.

The Magnetic Girl 
Hub City Press, 2019

 

In rural north Georgia two decades after the Civil War, thirteen-year-old Lulu Hurst reaches high into her father’s bookshelf and pulls out an obscure book, The Truth of Mesmeric Influence.  Deemed gangly and undesirable, Lulu wants more than a lifetime of caring for her disabled baby brother, Leo, with whom she shares a profound and supernatural mental connection.

Lulu begins to “captivate” her friends and family, controlling their thoughts and actions for brief moments at a time. After Lulu convinces a cousin she conducts electricity with her touch, her father sees a unique opportunity. He grooms his tall and indelicate daughter into an electrifying new woman: The Magnetic Girl. Lulu travels the Eastern seaboard, captivating enthusiastic crowds by lifting grown men in parlor chairs and throwing them across the stage with her “electrical charge.”

While adjusting to life on the vaudeville stage, Lulu harbors a secret belief that she can use her newfound gifts, as well as her growing notoriety, to heal her brother. As she delves into the mysterious book’s pages, she discovers keys to her father’s past and her own future–but how will she harness its secrets to heal her family?

Gorgeously envisioned, The Magnetic Girl is set at a time when the emerging presence of electricity raised suspicions about the other-worldly gospel of Spiritualism, and when women’s desire for political, cultural, and sexual presence electrified the country. Squarely in the realm of Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder and Leslie Parry’s Church of Marvels, The Magnetic Girl is a unique portrait of a forgotten period in history, seen through the story of one young woman’s power over her family, her community, and ultimately, herself.

css.php