Mercy Assistant Professor’s New Book Chronicles a Family Health Crisis, Striking a Nerve

Book Jacket

Marc Palmieri, assistant professor of communication studies at Mercy College, has a new book coming out that chronicles his family’s ordeal when their pre-teenage daughter underwent a life-changing health crisis. The book, “She Danced with Lightning: My Daughter's Struggle with Epilepsy and Her Boundless Will to Live,” will be published in August by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Shuster.

The publisher’s summary reads: “Part family memoir, part medical mystery involving severe epilepsy, 'She Danced with Lightning' follows one girl’s battle to persevere as a competitive dancer, culminating in a terrifying decline, a courageous performance, and an eleventh hour, life-saving brain surgery.”

Palmieri was inspired to write the book after his daughter Anna’s lifelong battle with epilepsy took a dire turn as she neared her twelfth birthday. Although epilepsy is quite common—affecting 50 million people worldwide—it is sometimes called a “hidden disability.” Said Palmieri, “In the ten years we lived with Anna’s condition, like many parents of children with epilepsy, we looked to books that might help us, but found relatively little on the subject. I felt almost compelled to write about it."

Well before its release, the book seems to have touched a nerve. In the coming months Palmieri will be featured on podcasts, television shows and a major book festival. Media organizations have run stories about the Palmieri family and their ordeal. The Mercy professor has had discussions with a major health network and several epilepsy organizations that view the book’s insights and harrowing details as a springboard to raising awareness.

In addition, Mercy’s School of Natural and Health Sciences has selected the book for its next common read and panel discussion. This fall, “She Danced with Lightning” will be required or recommended reading for faculty and students at the school and will serve as the basis of an interprofessional panel discussion to take place later in the year.

Palmieri, who teaches oral communication as well as theater, film and directing, encourages his students to recognize the value of their own experience. “Our students make tremendous sacrifices to be here, and many of them are the first in their family to attend college. Every one of them has a story worth sharing. I tell my students, your voice is your most important attribute, and it’s just as worthy of sharing as anyone else’s.”

The crisis period covered in the book occurred during his first year of teaching at Mercy. “In the book I mention some of the subjects I was teaching that helped me make sense of the experience,” he said. “It was important for me to demonstrate how dearly I hold education and how grateful I am that my role at Mercy allows me share that appreciation with my students.”

He goes on to draw a parallel between the writing of a memoir and one of the cornerstone values Mercy College provides its students. “For me, storytelling comes from what we’ve learned,” he said. “That’s the beauty of a liberal arts education—the lifelong learning that comes from noticing what’s going on around you and what it shows you about yourself.”

The book is currently available for advance purchase on Amazon, and will be released in paperback, e-reader and audiobook formats. Palmieri, who is a working actor, screenwriter, playwright and director, recently learned that he was chosen to perform the reading of the audio book.

To purchase the book on Amazon, please click here