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Book DetailsISBN: 9781922182272
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Book Review: Shy: A Memoir by Sian Prior - Reviewed by CloggieA (28 May 2014)
Shy: A Memoir is the first book by Australian journalist, broadcaster media consultant and teacher, Sian Prior. Since 1980, when the DSM III recognised social anxiety, shyness has been accepted as a form of this disorder, situated on a spectrum that ranges from mild anxiety to social phobia. Sian Prior has suffered from shyness for as long as she can remember, but it was the overwhelming need, when she was in her forties, to escape from a party that finally stimulated her to research this often debilitating condition. Her research, together with candid accounts of Sian’s own experiences, form the bulk of this memoir. This highly personal aspect gives the reader a remarkable insight into the plight of those who suffer from this unenviable affliction, but also a revealing look at the rest of us. (“Why do we remember our failures and sufferings so much better than our pleasures and triumphs?” could equally apply to the unafflicted.) Prior explores the various definitions of shyness, as well as attitudes to shyness, and explains the difference between shyness and introversion. The contradiction arising from the fact that shy people are often successful in very public roles is also examined: Prior depicts Shy Sian and Professional Sian as virtually different people. Prior found that “shyness was sometimes interpreted by others as haughtiness or a lack of interest…” Pride, shame, loneliness, fear of rejection and bullying in relation to shyness are all considered, but Prior also notes the association of shyness with empathy and caring. Also appearing in this memoir are some interesting support characters: psychologist and mother, Professor Margot, the imaginary Magazine Woman, fearless grandmother Peg, Mr Hippy Shoulder Bag, musician, father and posthumous hero Glen, partner Tom (an alias for a well-known musician and performer), grandfather Stan and his printing press, Professor Ron, Julia Gillard and Charles Darwin. While the subject matter could have proved heavy going, Prior tells her story with wit, humour and some wonderfully descriptive prose. “Anxiety can be contagious, leaping from person to person” and “…the West Indian boys who played in the steel drum band would be swaying in a ragged line, brown arms waving over the metal pans like card-trick magicians, conjuring the sound of shy church bells seduced by calypso” and “What strange sort of holiday was I packing for here? A holiday on an island of grief” are just a few examples. This memoir is interesting and thought-provoking, and is an exceptional debut
Sian Prior is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in the arts and popular culture, a media consultant, and a teacher at universities and writers centres. She has a second career as a musician and recording artist. Sian lives in Melbourne. Shy: A Memoir is her first book.
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