One side of 24 year-old Ana Rodarte’s face balloons and sags with disfiguring neurofibromatosis. Can surgery help? Los Angeles Times reporter Thomas Curwen takes on a classic medical drama and covers all the bases, following Ana, her family, and her doctors through three operations.

“Ana’s Story” flirts with over-earnestness but avoids it through Curwen’s use of startling details. Ana likes to go drinking. Her collection of DVDs contains mostly slasher films. Her third surgery involves chiseling out a piece of her skull to fit under her eye. The story closes with a particularly unexpected coda related to Ana’s career choice.

Curwen makes unusual use of first-person narration by inserting himself into the article as a representative of both Ana and the reader. He subtly indicts the world’s treatment of Ana and tries to dissect her interior life—all the while posing questions that resist answers, including “How do you create a life when you are so dependent upon others and for no other reason than how you look?”

Read “Ana’s Story,” by Thomas Curwen

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard