Book: The Empathy Exams

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The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison, doctoral candidate in English literature

(Graywolf Press)

Beginning with her experience as a medical actor, paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about one another? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other?

By confronting pain — real and imagined, her own and others’ — Jamison, according to the publisher, uncovers “a personal and cultural urgency to feel.” She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory — from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration — in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.

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