A spirited, wry, and stunningly original memoir about one woman’s struggle to make her way and set up a life after doctors discover a hole in her brain the size of a lemon.
For as long as she can remember, Cole Cohen has struggled with a series of learning disabilities that make it nearly impossible to judge time and space.
When twenty-six-year-old Cohen submits herself to a battery of tests in an attempt to finally get to the bottom of her struggles, doctors find a hole they cannot explain. Without established tools to rely on in the wake of this utterly unique diagnosis, Cohen and her doctors create them. We watch as, supported by a cast of truly singular and delightfully strange friends and family, Cohen discovers firsthand how best to navigate the peculiar, remarkable world that she lives in. Told in Cohen’s raw, honest, unforgettable voice, Head Case is at its heart a story of triumph, as we watch this passionate and unsinkable young woman chart a path for herself.
May 2, 2007
Inside my stomach it feels bright and cold like those old cartoons where the crow swallows a mercury thermometer and reels around the room clutching his gut, hiccupping in percussive squeals. My purse is clamped tightly under my arm; the gold clasp digs into my armpit. I am with my father—or my mother; I don’t remember who drove me and who was at work. I didn’t drive myself because I can’t; which is why I’m here. I’m not moving to Southern California for grad school without knowing first how to drive, and since I was fifteen no one’s been able to teach me how to and no one, including me, has been able to reason out what’s stopping me. When I try to drive I get disoriented, overwhelmed, and tired, but doesn’t everyone at first? Both parents will be summoned to the next appointment.
“Head Case is hilarious, moving, thought-provoking: it will change the way you think about what it means to move through the world, no matter the shape of your own human brain. Cole Cohen’s brain is unusual, and her voice is indelible: this is a wonderful book by a wonderful writer.”
author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories
“Cole Cohen’s Head Case is a moving exploration of how we try to make ourselves make sense—to ourselves, to the world—by finding stories that will fit. It’s full of hard-won insight, candor and tenderness, delightful wit and surprising grace.”
author of The Empathy Exams
“Terrifically readable, while still being piercing and honest about different kinds of struggle, some familiar, some utterly her own. Besides that, Cole Cohen’s also really funny. And unafraid of being bleak. And funny/bleak. I so enjoyed being carried along by Cohen’s voice.”
author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“Cole Cohen writes with clarity, humor, and honesty about her own unique brain, but Head Case is also about the very human journey of learning to navigate the big world from inside one’s own mind. This is a fascinating and brave memoir.”
author of No One Is Here Except All of Us and A Guide to Being Born
“Head Case is funny, touching, acerbic, and emotional; it vividly evokes the world as the author experiences it and leaves you feeling you have met an exceptional, tough, indomitable character.”
author of The Orchid Thief
“I’m delighted and inspired by Cole Cohen’s Head Case, an account of herself that shines throughout with her particular brand of perseverance, humor, hard-won clarity, and wisdom.”
author of The Art of Cruelty
“This is an eloquent, moving, witty, and unsparingly clear-eyed memoir of a mind that is unlike any other and that, despite a lifetime of tests, simply refuses to cower before facts of life most of us wouldn’t deem worthy of a second thought. This is not only a great book; it’s an achievement.”
author of Call Me by Your Name
“As the mother of a child afflicted with an ‘invisible disability,’ I am grateful for this revelatory memoir. Cohen’s challenges are as universal as their cause is unique, and Head Case, so raw and artful both, is an important book. Bravo!”
author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
“Rich with yearning and ache, conveying a scrunched sense of claustrophobia and imagery of cinematic quality. . . The author also delivers flashes of humor to add levity to the proceedings. A beautifully wrenching memoir as piercing as smelling salts.
“A lemon-size hole in her brain prevents Cohen from accurately judging time and space but not from writing beautifully. She even maintains a sense of humor about it all...Though her specific condition is extremely rare, it's very easy to identify with her and to cheer for her.”