As Memory Disappears

The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time, by Jonathan Kozol, (Crown), 320 Pages, release date 2 June, 2015

Jonathan Kozol is a solid writer, author of a number of books on education and inequality in the U.S. In The Theft of Memory he takes on a different, more personal topic: his father’s struggles with Alzheimer’s disease. Not surprisingly, the father is as notable as his son. Harry Kozol trained at Harvard and Johns Hopkins and became a well-known specialist in brain disorders.

The Theft of Memory makes for poignant reading. We see flashes of Harry Kozol’s brilliance, but we also see his own awareness of the disease that is steadily reducing his memories, his sense of self. Jonathan Kozol’s narrative ability keeps readers engaged with Harry Kozol’s progress, even when the father becomes difficult, offensive, or simply seems to fade away as a personality.

I found that this was a book I had to read in installments because of its topic. Even for readers who haven’t witnessed someone else’s Alzheimer’s disease, the possibility that one may become that compromised person, trying to create meaning and security in a world with fewer and fewer memories, is difficult. We read the story of Harry Kozol, but we don’t know whether we are reading a version of our own story as well.