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Polio Boulevard

Karen Chase recounts her battle with polio and FDR as a figure of hope

in Non-Fiction by

As the country watches Ken Burns’ latest documentary opus, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, unfold on television, we’ll be given another look at what some have called FDR’s “grand deception”—his campaign to hide the fact that throughout his presidency, he was, due to polio, unable to walk. Apprehensive as to how his public image would suffer if he was seen as disabled, Roosevelt’s family, his aides, and even the media worked together to downplay and conceal the severity of his impairment. Roosevelt and his battle against one of the most dreaded diseases of the 20th century resonate throughout Polio Boulevard (Excelsior Editions, 2014), a touching memoir written by poet Karen Chase. Chase contracted polio as a 10-year-old in 1953—ironically, at…

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