I first knew my cousin-in-law Rosemary Griggs as a sexy young artist with an independent streak and a wonderfully offbeat creative sensibility expressed through compelling clay constructions and also in her visually stimulating home near the ocean on St. Simons. Even in the second half of her 40s, she’s still all of the above. If you don’t think the 40s are young, just wait. And if you don’t think a woman without breasts can be sexy, just meet Rosie.
Yes, breast cancer, and the removal of both breasts and chemo, loss of her hair and her strength but not her determination and her ability to keep up with it all and finally recount it in funny, warm, terrifying line drawings, which, with her narrative make up a book as close to delightful as the grim subject allows.
I can’t tell you that you will enjoy Rosie’s book, Mammary Lane: A Sketchbook of Breast Cancer Survival, but on the other hand, it’s not just a how-to book for those who have or have had breast cancer. What it is, I guess, is the record of a brave and talented person forced to go through a very traumatic experience, making it through and having the ability and the wit to produce this record. I am sure that anybody who knows somebody fighting breast cancer will want to read this book and will find a great deal of solace and encouragement in doing so. If you don’t have the cancer connection—and here’s hoping you don’t—Rosemary’s book takes you inside one of those modern horrors that we don’t even want to think about, and she gives you an up-close example of how to think about the unthinkable and cope with it successfully and come out on the other side and pick up your life and keep on keeping on.
But Rosie’s story is contingent on one David Ray Dockery, her husband. A lot of people know David from his many years teaching and coaching track in Gainesville. It is simply amazing how many of David’s former students now live in Athens and count him a great friend and a tremendously positive influence in their lives. David, as you will quickly see in this book, is a powerfully unusual person, who had a second teaching and coaching career after he moved to the coast and who has the capacity to comfort, aid, encourage and support—all of which he has done for Rosemary every step of the way. He is a runner with a full, now-gray beard that makes him a strong éminence grise in Rosie’s sketches.
Mammary Lane: A Sketchbook of Breast Cancer is not one of those saccharine attempts to put a feel-good spin on a bad experience. You probably won’t find this one in the airport book shop. Rosie hits it head-on: the unfolding realization that this is the real thing and that she’s going to lose her breasts and have to cope with a whole bunch of physical and psychological devastation, pain and suffering. She details the horror of it in her punchy drawings and also the elements in her world that gave her the strength to make it through: David, her family, her cats, her dogs, wine, dancing, friends, casseroles, naps, humor, love, her work. Mammary Lane is an unflinching human document.
I invite you to meet Rosemary and David at Avid Bookshop, 493 Prince Ave. next Wednesday evening, Sept. 10 from 6:30–7:30 p.m. It’s worth coming just to meet them, whether or not you want to read or buy her book. She’ll talk about it, and she’ll sign it if you want one.
What: Artist Talk with Rosemary Griggs
Where: Avid Bookshop
When: Wednesday, Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m.
How Much: FREE!