A Brain. A Heart. The Nerve.
A Brain. A Heart. The Nerve. is a fictional biography of Meinhardt Raabe, a midget hired to play a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. Meinhardt wants the dignity and respect given normal people, yet his disability makes him mistrust even those who can see past it. He devotes his life to succeeding in work, but wonders if it has been at the cost of friendship and love. The narrative follows Meinhardt from 1935 pre-war Berlin, where he is the victim of Nazi social hygiene policies, to his star turn in the movie, through decades of social change in the United States, and ends in 1980 with his pilgrimage to the small town in Germany where the grandmother (Oma) who raised him was born. There he confronts the choice to maintain the safety of his isolation or, at the age of 65, to at last take the risk of opening his heart. Secondary characters, based on imagined and historical figures, include Rodge Smythe, an aphorism-spouting legless Great War veteran; Margaret Hamilton, the actress who played the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz; Charles Becker, another Munchkin, who marries a fellow cast member and is the father of one normal child and one midget; and Celia Posy, a beautiful fashion model, half-again Meinhardt’s height, with whom he falls in love but who has a hidden disability of her own. Settings in Europe and the United States during bygone eras, together with characters who range from seamstresses to salesmen and bartenders to buskers, bring alive the struggles of a memorable character, with a memorable name, as he learns his true measure. The book is entertaining, appealing to generations of readers who share the author’s fascination with the magic of Oz. While she is not a midget, she is a very short person who can thus identify with the protagonists’s logistical challenges and struggle for full-size respect. However, A Brain. A Heart. The Nerve. is much more than an inside look at a classic movie or the trials of a little person. The book matters because justice is the pursuit and right of everyone who is discriminated against due to disability, race, ethnicity, religion, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, appearance, and/or other aspect of identity. Though set in the past, A Brain. A Heart. The Nerve. is with us today, wherever bigotry lives. In its pages, readers will find the intelligence, love, and courage to follow the yellow brick road to the safe home we all deserve.