Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: In Stitches by Anthony Youn, M.D.

In Stitches

Title: In Stitches by Anthony Youn, M.D.
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published: April 26, 2011
ISBN: 9781451608441
Pages: 288

    Growing up Anthony Youn was one of two Asian kids in his small Michigan town.  He struggles to fit in and be one of the cool kids -- a mission not made any easier by his immigrant father's commands for him to study to be a doctor (surgeon, not family practitioner), to practice tennis, and to do the yard work.  Even brief periods of coolness by association can't help Anthony in his mission to be a "cool" kid.  He buckles down and works hard to follow his father's directions or at least appear to.  Then, in high school, it happens.  His underbite becomes more and more massive as his jaw refuses to stop growing.  He undergoes surgery to correct his jaw problem and a spark for his eventual career is born.
    Youn goes to college convinced that he will become a doctor and that he will finally get a girl.  He aces his classes and makes friends, but still has trouble meeting girls.  No matter what advice his friends give; he always seems to strike out.  After four years of college, he's ready for medical school but his social life is in an even worse condition.  Not until medical school does Youn finally starts to see being a doctor as a career and not a job where he can make money.  He begins to have more success with the ladies, not without hilarious incidents along the way.  Eventually, he meets his eventual wife.  During his pediatric rotation, he answers a call of a baby that was mauled by its mothers pet raccoon (yeah I know).  Seeing the plastic surgeon planning how to piece the baby's face back together and remembering his own jaw surgery, he feels called to become a reconstructive plastic surgeon.  He begins a mad scramble to become accepted into a plastic surgery program.  He is accepted to his first choice and is on his way to being a plastic surgeon.

In Stitches is a reference both to Dr. Youn's career as a plastic surgeon and the humor in the memoir.  He takes us back through his life detailing his victories and his defeats.  He is self-deprecating, especially in his accounts of his failed "relationships" and dates.  We can see the growth in his relationship with his father.  He realizes that his father is trying to instill a work ethic in him.  The same unfailing work ethic is what took his father from being a poor farm boy in Korea to being a Michigan OB/GYN married to a woman from a higher social class.  His father is able to relax and accept him being any type of doctor and his having a white girlfriend.  After being part of a humiliating verbal attack on his gay roommate, Youn also reevaluates his religion and chooses to practice a Christianity that accepts gay people and encourages tolerance to all of mankind.  The biggest change might be that being a doctor becomes his calling rather than a job that pleases daddy.  He realizes the responsibility he owes to his future patients to help them the same way he was helped.

There is cursing, crude humor, and other foul language in the book.  Something that detracted from the book was the fact that every woman he found intimidating was described as manly.  In addition, any woman that weren't "hot" (blond sorority girls, his eventual wife, and a couple of fiery Latinas) seemed to have been treated as wastes of space.  He routinely critiques his friend's dating choices as less than attractive because they didn't fit the Playboy/Penthouse standard.  It's just a very crude, immature point of view and hopefully he grew out of it.

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