Friday, February 22, 2013

Dwarf--Tiffanie DiDonato (Book Review)

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I wasn't expecting to have a hard time with Dwarf. I like memoirs. I had a friend with dwarfism in high school, and so I thought it'd be an interesting read.

I wonder what my friend--a spunky, strong, independent young woman who probably measured 3'6"--would think of this book about a girl whose idea of coping with her condition was to defy medical advice to make herself as close to average height as possible.

The problem with this memoir was not the fact that DiDonato chose to have this unprecedented surgery (though I agreed with her father, her doctor, and her best friend, that it was a bad idea). The problem is that she then describes in agonizing detail all the pain and suffering that she went through after the voluntary surgery--and seems to expect readers to feel sorry for her empathize. I couldn't. I felt heaps more empathy when I read about the boy who purposefully set himself on fire (now, that was a tough read, but well worth it). Yes, Tiffanie, it hurts to break your bones in several places and then pull them apart! You didn't think of that??

So what led a 16 year old girl to make this decision? Maybe it was the eerie lullaby repeated throughout the book, that her mom apparently made up when she was a baby, to remind Tiffanie every day that she loved her even though she was small? Or maybe, being told that her father's reaction to her diagnosis at birth was to divorce her mom? (He rejoined the family when Tiffanie was a young girl, though he and Tiffanie's mom never officially remarried.)

Gratuitous Divorce 101 tip: Children need to be reassured that the divorce is not their fault, that, even though the marriage is ending, both parents still love their children as much as ever. (Or, you know--go the "your dad couldn't handle that you weren't perfect, so he left me when you were born" route. Your choice, I guess.)

Bizarre parenting choices like these--and like letting a 16 year old make a medical decision that her trusted doctor refuses to comply with--could make for an interesting memoir. But the author doesn't seem to have gained any more insight than she had as a teen. In fact, I assumed that she was in her early 20s, publishing an account that she had written as a teen (Nope--she's 32. Plenty of time for revisions). Her mother and herself are written as the brave heroes, and those who tried to talk her into accepting herself as she was (or at least going with a milder version of the surgery) as dolts who wanted her to remain dependent for the rest of her life. The fact that there might have been a gray area in between those two extremes doesn't seem to occur to the author, even now.

The story ends with the clear message that, if she hadn't lengthened her bones, her happily-ever-after ending would have been impossible (Really? She thinks her husband wouldn't have loved her if she were a foot shorter?) A fairy tale ending, a la The Little Mermaid movie. The fact that Ariel stops being a mermaid at the end instead of learning to accept herself with a tail has always irritated me. I guess that's just not the type of happy ending I can embrace.

Here's an interesting short video about Tiffanie, her family, and her controversial surgery: 'Dwarf': Woman Endures Painful, Controversial Surgeries to Grow Taller | Video - ABC News

The soundtrack:  Here's some classic Billy Joel: I Love You Just the Way You Are. Though it doesn't reflect the book, I think it's a good response to it.

I received Dwarf from the publicist, through the early reviewer program. 


  1. I had high hopes for this book so I'm disappointed to see you found it less than satisfying.

  2. Gosh, I hope all the old comments come back soon! (testing to make sure new comments still work).

  3. I also found the book less than satisfying and was compelled to review it as well on my blog, though I have never reviewed a book before. My shock was that it received such rave reviews by so many on Amazon! In any case I reviewed the book less from the parenting perspective (I guess cuz I'm not a parent.. and more from the perspective of a fellow little person.) I'd greatly appreciate it if you checked it out! Thanks & I hope your week is off to a great start :-)

  4. This is a great review--thanks for sharing it here.
    I highly recommend that anyone who reads my review head over and check out Sandy's perspective at