FREAK: Memoir of an Outcast Goes Viral

NEW YORK, Aug. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A new book, and the video by its author, are causing a stir in Cyberspace. Can the movie (Mask meets Elephant Man) be far behind?

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Imagine having your face disappear at birth, and your parents, unable to cope, leaving you behind in the hospital! Imagine the kind life you might be forced to live--the pain, the horror. And yet, somehow, in the midst of it, some unbelievable triumphs that prove the invincibility of the human spirit. And then, imagine tracking down your birth mother. When confronted, what would you ask her? And how do you think she might respond? 

FREAK: Memoir of an Outcast is Howard Shulman's true story. At three days of age, Howard was attacked by a virus that ravaged his face and completely destroyed his nose, lower lip, eyelid, and upper palate. As he says in his book, "As quickly as my face disappeared so did my mother."

Made a ward of the state of New Jersey (thereafter referred to as case# XUG-950), Howard was placed under the care of an experimental state-employed surgeon, who mutilated his body in numerous unnecessarily painful and barbarian attempts to recreate his young patient's face. Institutionalized in a dreary South Bronx Hospital in New York, Howard spent his early years undergoing innumerable skin and bone grafts and reconstructive surgery that left his body butchered and scarred and, understandably, a river of molten anger coursing through his veins. Feeling alienated, with no family to officially call his own, his feeling a lack of self-worth would have grave repercussions.

Shuffled between foster homes, he was emancipated at 16 and he began working as a dishwasher. Naturally entrepreneurial, he would eventually find success as the owner of a popular nightclub in San Diego. At 38, his life takes another dramatic turn when he meets his birth mother. His bittersweet connections with her and her family provide insight that speaks to the empowerment that comes from making peace with the past.

A deeply moving portrayal of one man's reflections on growing up an outcast, FREAK is a unique story of an individual's search for self. With unapologetic candor, he gives an unflinching account of his ordeals and triumphs and the larger-than-life characters he encounters. As he begins to trust himself, he finds ways to improve his appearance, and state-funded surgeries are gradually replaced with private clinics and the skills of renowned surgeons.

Along the way a European actress, a schoolteacher, and a fiery Hispanic woman help transform his life. He also comes to the aid of an impoverished Guatemalan mother and her two children, the young family inspiring him to rise above his own needs. By giving of himself, he receives more than he ever imagined possible. Family, he learns, is whomever we touch, wherever they may be. Despite staggering odds, Shulman surmounts his disadvantaged beginnings to embark upon a journey of self-discovery and, ultimately, love. FREAK is a moving story of redemption.

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Judy Katz

SOURCE Howard Shulman


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