Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams

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Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies

KarenCraigo Karen Craigo

When you love nonfiction, sometimes the perfect book just finds you, exactly when you need it most.

That was precisely the case with Halitosis: Bad Breath Causes and Natural Treatment Solutions by Alyson Rodgers.

Just kidding—it’s April 1, after all. But the book that really brought me face to face with my own troublesome life force is Leslie Jamison’s much-talked-about The Empathy Exams (Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2014). I’d heard a lot of buzz about the title before I finally got around to checking it out for myself.

I have been thinking a lot about empathy. I recently lost my job—I was a full-time non-tenure track English instructor whose three-year contract was non-renewed—and I’m not proud to admit that I’ve been ping-ponging from deep shame to blessed relief to the most delicious schadenfreude. (My disappearing job is with a rather unremarkable and rather expensive liberal arts college that is dying…

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