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5 Inspiring Triumph Over Tragedy Stories To Read This Fall

When the news reports hurricanes, natural disasters, mass shootings and other generally difficult stories to process, it helps to find hope and inspiration in the stories of survivors who have triumphed over tragedy. Here are 5 amazing true stories of survival from authors who have experienced some of life's most difficult tragic situations. Their stories offer lessons of hope and inspiration, and a kind of wisdom that can only come from walking through the fire of personal tragedy and surviving. We suggest having tissues handy--- these are some powerful stories! But, don't worry, the authors share lots of joy, humor and hope along the way.

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1. But My Brain Had Other Ideas by Deb Brandon

She Writes Press / Via

When Deb Brandon discovered that cavernous angiomas―tangles of malformed blood vessels in her brain―were behind the terrifying symptoms she'd been experiencing, she underwent one brain surgery. And then another. And then another. And that was just the beginning. Unlike other memoirs that focus on injury crisis and acute recovery, But My Brain Had Other Ideas follows Brandon’s story all the way through to long-term recovery, revealing without sugarcoating or sentimentality Brandon’s struggles―and ultimate triumph. Kirkus calls But My Brain Had Other Ideas “harrowing and inspiring” and goes on to recommend it as "a valuable piece of education on recovery from brain injury.”

2. Beyond the High Blue Air by Lu Spinney / Via

Beyond the High Blue Air is a memoir of family love, and the fight for life while taking on modern medicine. When Spinney’s adult son, Miles, suffers a snowboarding accident that lands him in a coma, Spinney, along with her husband and three other children, put their lives on hold to focus on Miles’ care. They believe that he will be returned to them. Spinney chronicles her family’s intimate experience, giving readers a first hand perspective on what it feels like to cope with the uncertainty of a loved one’s fate. The Sunday Times calls Beyond the High Blue Air “a spare, sharp memoir about the speed with which a comfortable existence can be blighted by grief”. Readers of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal will appreciate Beyond the High Blue Air.

3. She’s One in a Million by Janet Zimmerman / Via

Janet Zimmermann’s daughter, Emily, was a typical 14-year-old girl. She was in love with life and excited to be starting her freshman year of high school. Then, her world turned upside down. Emily was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In order to process the scope of what her family was facing in the wake of Emily’s diagnosis, Janet turned to journaling to help her make sense of the tragedy that plagued her young daughter and her whole family. She's One in a Million is honest, true, heart-wrenching, but also inspiring and hopeful. This is Janet’s (and Emily’s) story, a story of faith and trust in God, even when trusting wasn’t easy.

4. Juniper, The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Kelley French & Thomas French

Kelley & Thomas French / Via

Juniper French was born four months prematurely, at only 23 weeks' gestation. Weighing only 1 pound, 4 ounces, and her thin, tiny body was the length of a Barbie doll. Her head was smaller than a tennis ball, her skin was nearly translucent, and through her chest you could see her tiny heart beating. Babies like Juniper, born at the edge of viability, trigger the question: Which is the greater act of love -- to save her, or to let her go? Kelley and Thomas French chose to fight for Juniper's life, and this is their memoir. O, the Oprah Magazine calls Juniper “extraordinary”. The authors, and parents, explore the border between what is possible and what is right. They marvel at the science that conceived and sustained their daughter and the love that made the difference. They probe the bond between a mother and a baby, between a husband and a wife. They trace the journey of their family from its fragile beginning to the miraculous survival of their now thriving daughter.

5. Ink in Water by Lacy J. Davis & Jim Kettner

Lacy J. Davis & Jim Kettner / Via

Lacy Davis’s eating disorder began with the idea that suggested she just wasn’t good enough. And like ink in water, that idea spread until it reached every corner of her being. This is the true story of Lacy’s journey into the self-destructive world of multiple eating disorders. Young and positive Lacy tried to grapple with our culture’s body-image obsession and stay true to her riot girl roots. And while she initially succeeds, a break-up with a recovering addict starts her on a collision course with anorexia, health food obsession, and compulsive exercise addiction. At the request of a friend, she goes to a twelve-step program, only to find that it conflicts with her personal ideology. Blending bold humor, a healthy dose of self-deprecation, vulnerability, literary storytelling, and dynamic and provocative artwork by illustrator Jim Kettner, Ink in Water is an unflinching, brutally honest look into the author’s mind: how she learned to take control of her damaging thoughts, redirect her perfectionism from self-destructive behaviors into writing and art, and how she committed herself to a life of health, strength, and nourishment.

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