Cover image for Moonrise : one family, genetic identity, and muscular dystrophy
Moonrise : one family, genetic identity, and muscular dystrophy
Wolfson, Penny.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
243 pages : portraits ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Electronic Access:
Table of contents
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RJ482.D78 W656 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
RJ482.D78 W656 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
RJ482.D78 W656 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Moonrise is Penny Wolfson's first-person account of her family, her son Ansel, and his progressive disability, caused by the genetic disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The journey begins when he is born and deemed a particularly beautiful and magical baby, continues with the alarming possibility, at the age of two, of "wrongness," takes us through the diagnosis of disease and prognosis of early death, and brings us to his adolescence, where his parents are never sure if the moon is rising or setting over his life.

As she traces her son's development and the impact of his disability on her worldview, she embarks on a quest to understand scientific advances and their implications. (The gene was isolated at approximately the time Ansel was diagnosed.) She also explores special education, giftedness, prenatal testing, and the genetic links she shares with her mother, sisters, and son. Questions about the disease-causing mutation persist: What does knowledge of the self on a molecular level mean? Is genetic self-knowledge our goal now, much as knowledge of the psyche was in the last century? Moonrise is an essential contribution to the dialogue about genetics, as well as a deeply human story about a remarkable child and his family.

Author Notes

Penny Wolfson won a National Magazine Award for the essay on which this book was based. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Exceptional Parent, and Good Housekeeping, and is included in The Best American Essays 2002, edited by the late Stephen Jay Gould. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives with her family in Dobbs Ferry, New York
Ansel Lurio is currently a student at Columbia University

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this heartfelt memoir, Wolfson employs expressive and skillful writing to convey how Ansel, her 17-year-old son, struggles to live with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). In spare, honest prose Wolfson describes how she and her husband, Joe, could not believe that there was anything wrong with their cheerful son, until it became clear that his motor abilities and language skills were far below those of the other children in his preschool. Interspersed with anecdotes about how family members, as well as Ansel, cope with his deteriorating condition is medical information about DMD, an inherited condition that is passed to males by female carriers. Although Wolfson, her husband and children have a warm family life, there is obvious tension among the three siblings, frequently sparked by Ansel's anger at his illness. He has also been isolated socially by his peers because of his disability and sometimes acts out in school, causing problems with teachers. Wolfson and her husband have been overwhelmed emotionally by all the physical adjustments that demand time and money. Despite DMD, Ansel emerges as a smart, brave teenager with a sense of humor; especially moving is Wolfson's description of his bar mitzvah. (Mar.) Forecast: A section of this memoir has already appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, and has won a National Magazine Award. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is certainly not the first memoir written by the parent of a child with a serious illness or disability. However, Wolfson does a wonderful job of drawing the reader into her family's emotions when her son Ansel is diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy as well as the ethical dilemmas that reach far into the extended family after the gene that causes it is isolated and sequenced. Prenatal testing is available now, and against the scientific and historical background of Ansel's disease, Wolfson considers how parents and family members can respond, often quoting from her personal journal. Wolfson's many articles on muscular dystrophy have appeared in highly visible publications like the New York Times and Exceptional Parent. More important, a section of Moonrise that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly won a National Magazine Award. An excellent addition for most collections. [Mitchell Zuckoff's Choosing Naia: A Family's Journey explores similar ethical issues.-Ed.]-KellyJo Houtz Griffin, Eatonville, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1. Backdropp. 1
2. Double Exposurep. 17
3. Family Albump. 43
4. Negative Capabilityp. 65
5. Moving Picturesp. 91
6. Camera Obscurap. 121
7. Photosynthesisp. 147
8. Depth of Fieldp. 175
9. Slide Showp. 191
10. Moonrisep. 207
Notesp. 229
Bibliographyp. 233
Acknowledgmentsp. 239