Literary Luminaries Explore Aging

Article excerpt

On the Book Shelf

"Part of growing up and growing older involved expanding beyond those limiting paradigms that hobbled us when we were younger," writes best-selling novelist Julia Alvarez in her essay "Caring Across Borders: Aging Parents in Another Country," which appears in the new anthology An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family, edited by Nell casey (New York City: William Morrow). Alvarez's chapterabout her elderly parents' return from the United States to the home of their youth, the Dominican Republic, just before her mother found out she needed surgery-is one of 20 contributions by such literary luminaries as Frank McCourt, Jerome Groopman, Julia Glass and Sam Lipsyte.

An Uncertain Inheritance examines the caregiving relationship from a wide range of angles: adult children caring for parents; parents caring for children; and relationships with siblings, spouses, healthcare professionals and close friends.

With poignancy and considerable, often self-effacing humor, Alvarez describes how "that first crisis" set her and her three sisters back into their childhood roles and rivalries as each vied for attention-this time to prove to be the best caregiver an ailing parent could want. Glass describes the tension inherent in raising two young sons while learning to care for herself following a diagnosis of breast cancer.

In one of the most thoughtful essays, cartoonist Stan Mack, whose Real Life Funnies have run in the Village Voice for 20 years, provides an illustrated excerpt from his book, Janet and Me (New York City: Simon and Schuster, 2004). …