Pretty is what changes

queller_bookcov200I came across this in a bookstore when in the US last month. The title “Pretty Is What Changes” attracted me initially. The title comes from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George, “Pretty isn’t beautiful, mother. Pretty is what changes. What the eye arranges is what is beautiful.”

The author of this book,  Jessica Queller lets us know early on in her memoir that she comes from a family that defines “pretty” in the conventional sense.  Her grandmother was an actrees, her mother, a fashion designer and Jessica herself, a television writer (writing for the TV shows “Gilmore Girls” “Gossip Girl).

When Jessica’s mother dies from ovarian cancer at 60, having first developed breast cancer at 51,  the author decides to undergo the BRCA test.  Upon discovering she tests positive for the gene, she faces a choice between testing and monitoring for signs of cancer or undergoing a double mastectomy and possibly removal of her ovaries to give herself the best chance of not developing cancer.  She struggles with her decision but evenutally choses to have a double mastectomy at 35 and at the time of writing is planning to have her ovaries removed before she is 40. Jessica also ultimately learns to redefine what is prettiness by discovering that prettiness is not true beauty.

 Watch an interview with the author on Good Morning America