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Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly
AP
The joint memoir of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, titled "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," was written with "The Last Lecture" co-author Jeffrey Zaslow. It comes out on Nov. 15.
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updated 11/4/2011 12:13:55 PM ET 2011-11-04T16:13:55

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords vows to return to Congress in a new book that details months of intense therapy and her emotional battle to come to terms with what happened when a gunman opened fire in front of a Tucson grocery store.

The book, written by Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, also says that the couple had been quietly trying to have a baby. Giffords had undergone several rounds of fertility treatments in the last few years and was hoping to be pregnant early in 2011.

The memoir, called "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," is the most personal and detailed look yet at Giffords' struggle over the past 10 months to relearn how to walk and talk, and her painful discovery that 12 others were wounded and six killed during the Jan. 8 attack.

Slideshow: Former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (on this page)
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The Associated Press purchased an advance copy of the book. It is set for release on Nov. 15.

Giffords delivers the last chapter — a single page of short sentences and phrases entitled "Gabby's Voice" in which she says her goal is to get back to Congress.

"I will get stronger. I will return," she vows. Giffords, 40, stunned colleagues by appearing on the U.S. House floor in Washington on Aug. 1 to vote for the debt ceiling deal, but she has focused most of her time on her recovery at TIRR Memorial Hermann, a rehabilitation center in Houston.

Story: Gabrielle Giffords to read part of her upcoming audio book

The book reveals that because of her injuries, Giffords has lost 50 percent of her vision in both eyes.

Kelly recalls trying to tell his wife several times what had happened that Jan. 8 morning, when Giffords was shot in the head while meeting constituents. But she didn't fully understand until March 12.

Kelly asked Giffords if she remembered being shot, and she replied that she did. When he asked what she remembered about it, she said three words: "Shot. Shocked. Scary."

Later that same day, Kelly was reading to her from a New York Times article about her recovery and skipped over a paragraph that said six others were killed. Giffords, following along, knew he left something out and pushed him to tell her what it was.

Kelly writes that after she learned of the deaths, Giffords was overcome with emotion and had trouble getting through her therapy. That night as they lay in bed, she told Kelly that she felt awful about all the people who were killed. He held her as she cried.

Six months later, after being released from the Houston hospital to Kelly's home 25 miles (40 kilometers) away, Giffords wanted to know who had been killed that day. He warned her that it would be tough on her because she knew two of the victims.

He started by telling her that her staff member Gabe Zimmerman died, which caused her to moan and cry in a wave of emotion. Then he told her about her friend, federal Judge John Roll, and the four other people she didn't know. Finally, he told her that Christina Taylor-Green, a 9-year-old girl born on Sept. 11, 2001, was among the dead.

Story: Giffords, astronaut husband get memoir deal

After she got the news, Kelly writes that he held her as she processed the information and wept.

Kelly recounted the agonizing moments when several media outlets inaccurately reported that Giffords was dead, then described experiencing hope when he learned she was alive and being treated at a Tucson hospital.

When Kelly first saw Giffords after the shooting, he wrote that he was shocked at her state: She was in a coma with her head partially shaved and bandaged, her face black and blue, her body connected to a bunch of tubes. He told her how much he loved her and that she was going to survive.

He also describes the early days in Giffords' recovery and rehab in Texas, saying that the darkest moment came when Giffords panicked because she realized she couldn't talk. Her eyes were wide with fear and she was crying uncontrollably as Kelly tried his best to comfort her and assure her that she would get better.

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The book describes lighter moments, like when President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, visited Giffords at the Texas hospital. Giffords kept replying to Bush with the only word she was able to say: "chicken." At another point, a specialist showed her various politicians to see if she recognized people. When she saw former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, she said: "Messin' around. Babies."

Story: ‘The Color of Rain’: Two families start over as one

As she progressed, Kelly said Giffords learned to talk again, reciting the U.S. Constitution and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells msnbc.com, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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