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Gerda Saunders was born in South Africa in 1949, the year that apartheid became official. She received a BA from the University of Pretoria and emigrated with her husband, Peter, and three young children to the United States in 1984. She received her PhD in English from the University of Utah in 1996, where she also served as associate director of the Gender Studies Program until her retirement in 2011. Saunders’ first book is a collection of short stories, Blessings on the Sheep Dog (Southern Methodist University Press, 2002).
In 2011, when Saunders turned 61, she was diagnosed with cerebral microvascular disease, which is a precursor of dementia. Her journal entries processing her changes in memory became the basis for her popular memoir, Memory’s Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia (Hachette Books 2017). Saunders’ frank, intelligent, and always compassionate understanding of her dementia, along with her insights into the relationship between gender, race, and memory, has also been the subject of a series of short films produced by VideoWest. Saunders continues to document her dementia on her blog “My Life With Dementia.”