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Degrees of Difficulty

Julie Justicz

October 21, 2019

Ben Novotny was born with a rare chromosomal abnormality that caused profound mental retardation and seizures. He is severely limited but forms a tight bond with his older brother Hugo, who invents fun distractions and games that become dangerous as Ben gets older and bigger. Ben’s mother, Caroline, a lit professor at Emory, is barely holding herself together with mind-numbing drugs. His father, Percy, a successful contractor in Atlanta, keeps hoping to find an institution that will provide the kind of care Ben needs. His sister, Ivy angrily longs to escape after graduation, and his brother, Hugo gives up his own dreams to take care of Ben. Degrees of Difficulty (Fomite Press, 2019) follows the family over several decades as they each come to an understanding of how Ben affected their lives. 

Born and raised in England, Julie Justicz moved to the Bahamas when she was ten, and then to the United States as a teenager. Julie comes from a family of Olympians: Her father George Justicz rowed for Great Britain in the 1960 Rome Olympics; her brother Robert competed in the Special Olympics as a swimmer; and Julie has been a proud participant as a triathlete in the Gay Games (formerly known as the Gay Olympics). She earned a law degree from the University of Chicago and received an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. As an attorney and advocate, Julie currently works on civil rights issues in Chicago. She lives in Oak Park, Illinois with her spouse, Mary, and their two children. When she’s not trying to read, Julie likes to run - physical motion seems to result in creative composting.

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