Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau: Author News
Bestselling author, neuroscientist speaks at Capitol Theatre about journey to writing "Still Alice"

LisaGenova

Mar 31, 2017

By Miles Jay Oliver
Mar 22, 2017

YAKIMA, Wash. -- By writing fiction about people with debilitating illnesses, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist is offering readers an empathetic view of characters who are living with disorders rather than dying from them.

“Conversation is the key,” said Lisa Genova, author of “Still Alice” and several other New York Times bestselling novels, who spoke Wednesday as part of the Yakima Town Hall series at the Capitol Theatre.

Her work is sparking dialogue on subject matter that was previously overlooked, feared and misunderstood.

Many of the conditions Genova writes about are those that people consider death sentences. Genova said she focuses her novels on what living with those conditions is really like. By humanizing life for those suffering serious conditions, such as traumatic brain injuries and autism, Genova hopes her works will reduce any associated shame or stigma.

Innately a scientist, Genova said the drive to write came when one such debilitating disease happened to affect someone very close to her.

As a neuroscientist, Genova was focused on the molecular study of drug addiction. But her interest in Alzheimer’s disease — and writing a novel with a character who has it — was sparked when her grandmother walked to a bowling alley in the middle of the day to look for the team she usually met with at night.

Genova said she began looking at the molecular biophysics of Alzheimer’s, which satisfied the neuroscientist in her. But it did nothing to help the granddaughter in her.

Realizing that a piece of her understanding was missing, Genova said she began to wonder what it felt like to have the disease.

Genova said that sense of wonder, and asking herself that question, was important because it created a sense of empathy. She began asking, if you can no longer remember who you are, are you still you?

Genova told herself that one day she would write a book about a woman with Alzheimer’s disease.


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