EMILY RAPP / The Still Point of the Turning World: A Mother's Story
“The Still Point of the Turning World is about the smallest things and the biggest things, the ugliest things and the most beautiful things, the darkest things and the brightest things, but most of all it’s about one very important thing: the way a woman loves a boy who will soon die. Emily Rapp didn’t want to tell us this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of this intelligent, ferocious, grace-filled, gritty, astonishing starlight of a book.” -- Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan. He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, and level-headed, but fun. He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father. He would be an avid skier like his mother. Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education.
But all of these plans changed when Ronan was diagnosed at nine months old with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder. Ronan was not expected to live beyond the age of three; he would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months. Rapp and her husband were forced to reevaluate everything they thought they knew about parenting. They would have to learnto live with their child in the moment, to find happiness in the midst of sorrow, to parent without a future.
Rapp’s response to her son’s diagnosis was a belief that she needed to “make my world big” – to make sense of her family’s situation through art, literature, philosophy, theology, and myth. Drawing on a broad range of thinkers and writers, from C. S. Lewis to Sylvia Plath, Hegel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rapp learns what wisdom there is to be gained from parenting a terminally ill child. In luminous, exquisitely moving prose she reexamines our most fundamental assumptions about what it means to be a good parent, to be a success, and to live a meaningful life.
Emily Rapp was born in Nebraska and grew up in Wyoming and Colorado. Born with a congenital defect, her left foot was amputated at age four, and she has worn a prosthetic limb ever since (about which she wrote in Poster Child: A Memoir, her first book). A former Fulbright scholarship recipient, she was educated at Harvard University, Saint Olaf College, Trinity College-Dublin, and the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She has received awards and recognition for her work from The Atlantic Monthly, StoryQuarterly, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation, the Jentel Arts Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Valparaiso Foundation. She was the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University and has received a Rona Jaffe Fellowship. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Sun, The Texas Observer, Body & Soul and many other publications. Emily has taught writing in the MFA program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, The Taos Writers' Workshop, University of California - Palm Desert, and the Gotham Writers' Workshops. She is currently professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design in Santa Fe, New Mexico.