Leslie'S Journal Essay

Empathy requires penetration, Jamison astutely notes: “It suggests you enter another person’s pain as you’d enter another country, through immigration and customs, border crossing by way of query: What grows where you are? As I cheer on the slow death of my institution, I have to remind myself of what grows there—the students I love, the faculty who have supported me without ceasing, my very special chair whose love of language has kept me energized.

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In The Empathy Exams, Jamison takes on the subject of empathy very directly, with essays that explore the lives of Bolivian coal miners, gangbangers-turned-tour guides, extreme racers, and even herself, viewed through the clinical lens of the professional patient.With the virtuosic synthesis of memoir, criticism, and journalism for which Leslie Jamison has been so widely acclaimed, the fourteen essays in Make It Scream, Make It Burn explore the oceanic depths of longing and the reverberations of obsession.Among Jamison’s subjects are 52 Blue, deemed “the loneliest whale in the world”; the eerie past-life memories of children; the devoted citizens of an online world called Second Life; the haunted landscape of the Sri Lankan Civil War; and an entire museum dedicated to the relics of broken relationships.The eponymous first essay in the collection is my favorite of the bunch.Jamison offers the unusual perspective of a medical actor—a person hired to present scripted complaints and personal details to medical students so that they can be tested on their diagnostic acumen and, more importantly to Jamison’s narrative, their demonstration of empathy.It is your job, and the job of girls and women like you, to bust out.You are going to run this country, and this world, very soon.So you will not listen to this man, or the 75-year-old, doughy-faced, gray-haired nightmare men like him, when they try to tell you where to stand or how to behave or what you can and cannot do with your own bodies, or what you should or should not think with your own minds.You will not be cowed or discouraged by his stream of retrogressive babble. Love, Leslie —written by a member of the Leslie Knope works for the US Department of the Interior, Midwest Branch, in her hometown of Pawnee, Indiana. She asks that if you have the means, you kindly make a donation to the ACLU, the International Rescue Committee, or the charity of your choice, to help the country and those most in need.It is not enough for the students to give a kind look or a warm smile; to get credit for empathy, the students must say something that demonstrates it.One of the questions on the medical actor’s evaluation sheet specifically asks about “voiced empathy.” Jamison includes an example of part of her dossier/script, and she also invents one for herself by way of comparison.


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