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At the age of forty-three, after discovering she was autistic, Amy Lee Lillard learned she was part of a community of unseen women who fell through the gaps due to medical bias and social stereotypes. And she learned that her brash and trashy family of women, purveyors of dirty jokes, dirty pictures, and dirty shame, may have broken under the weight of invisible disability.


The Past is a Grotesque Animal explores the making, unmaking, and making again of a woman with invisible and unknown disability. Essays examine how a working-class background and a deep-rooted Midwest culture of silence led to hiding in plain sight for decades. And Lillard uncovers what it means to be a disabled slut, a queer aging woman, a descendent of wild but tamed mothers, and a survivor of the things patriarchy does.


Through a combination of personal storytelling and cultural analysis, through wide-ranging styles and mixed media, and with a literary ancestry of Burn Your House Down, Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing, and Tomboyland, The Past is a Grotesque Animal is a battle cry that dissects anger, sexuality, autistic masking, bodies, punk, and female annihilation to create a new picture of modern women.

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