Not being able to physically smile is a challenge many people never have to think about. For playwright Sarah Ruhl, however, a Bell’s palsy diagnosis after giving birth to twins quickly forced her to reckon with an unexpected reality.
After initially opting to not write about the experience—it was anti-theatrical and too private—Ruhl ultimately decided she needed to get it all down on paper. The result is her memoir, titled Smile: The Story of a Face, is out October 5 from Simon and Schuster.
“The book sort of poured out of me and it turned out I had a lot to say about beauty, asymmetry, what it’s like to be a woman in the world without your smile, [and] what it’s like being to mother and not be able to smile,” she says in the video above.
Ruhl’s story doesn’t follow the traditional path of a healing narrative, making it all the more relatable by focusing on a mental fortitude building process that allowed her to find joy without a smile. Now, the playwright hopes the memoir will help others—and not just those suffering from Bell’s palsy, but anyone who might be emotionally stuck.
The Tony-nominated and Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright has written dozens of plays prior to this book. Among the notable titles are In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), The Clean House, For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday, and Eurydice. She also wrote the screenplay for the film The Glorias, about feminist leader and activist Gloria Steinem.
Click here to buy the book now.