We’ve been watching Emily Rapp’s face for a long time — we see her enough that it would be odd if we didn’t look at her directly — but it’s always nice when other people notice her, too, like the Los Angeles Times, who named her a “Face To Watch” in 2013 for her upcoming memoir The Still Point Of The Turning World.
Remember that furor over tiger mothers — the idea that a mom who was ambitious and strict could create superachieving children? Rapp responded with an impassioned essay for being a different kind of parent; it sparked a memoir, “The Still Point of the Turning World.”
In the book, which will be published in March, Rapp explains that she learned to stop imagining her son’s future and instead live with him in the moment. This was a hard lesson: When Ronan was 9 months old, he was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare genetic disorder. Children with Tay-Sachs lose sight, mobility and brain function, and they rarely live to age 4. The premature loss of a child seems unbearable, but of course, some people must bear it. Rapp learns from the parents who have done so before her, and finds them, above all, fierce: in the way they honor their children’s short lives, how they manage awful tasks, in their ability to live on.
Rapp has an emotional accessibility reminiscent of “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed; her unique experiences have a touch of the universal. She comes across as open, midthought. In her book, she wrestles with the ideas of luck and sentimentality and life and love and often circles back, unresolved. Despite being a former divinity student, she bypasses religion for literature, seeking meaning in poetry, myth and, especially, “Frankenstein” and its author, Mary Shelley.
Rapp was born with a birth defect that led to the amputation of her left foot (her memoir “Poster Child” tells of being part of the March of Dimes campaign), and after examining pity from every angle, she’s having none of it. Not for her, not for her son. Her kind of parent? The dragon mother: powerful, sometimes terrifying, full of fire and magic.