Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Loving Rachel: A Family's Journey from Grief

I really enjoyed this book. It's written by the mother of a child who is discovered to be blind a few months after birth. There is very open talk about how this impacted her relationship with her husband and then four-year-old daughter, as well as other family and friends.

The mother, Jane, finds herself in a world in which she never imagined herself being. She shares thoughts that most people keep to themselves. Thoughts that felt very familiar when I thought back to my response to my own daughter's diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Rachel was born in 1983 and I found it interesting to see that while surely things have changed since then, the emotions are timeless. In that way, the book never seemed dated.

I never felt sad reading this book, though grief is interwoven through the story. I think that may be because I've been there and realize that it's just a natural part of the journey.

The one thing that bothered me a little was the author's apparent obsession with the fact that her daughter could be found to be "retarded." She mentions it many times. If this were one of those stories where everything just ends up being ok in the end and it's all wrapped up with a pretty little bow with a sigh of relief and an expression of, "Whew! We just dodged a bullet, huh?" then maybe it would bother me more. But, like I said, she's honest about how she feels and it is scary to be faced with the unknown, so...I get it.

Where this book ends, Rachel in the World begins. I'm interested in reading that one eventually.

I'd be glad to send out Loving Rachel to anyone who wants to give it a read.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb: Yes, the same Wally Lamb who wrote She's Come Undone (one of my all-time favorite books!) and I Know This Much is True. Wishin' and Hopin' is quite a departure from Lamb's earlier works. Set in a fictional Connecticut town, it tells, from fifth-grader Felix Funicello's point of view, of the months leading up to Christmas 1964. With a colorful cast of characters as Felix's family and his schoolmates at a Catholic parochial school, it's a quick, light read. Forgettable, but fun.

I had thought that maybe my 12-year old could read this when I finished it, it being told from a fifth-grader's point of view, but it's got some swearing and light sexual content that would leave me feeling like an irresponsible parent if I handed the book over to him ;) So, adults only.

My hardcover copy is up for grabs!

The Space Between Us (novel)

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is set in modern-day India and tells the story of two women, Sera and Bhima, whose lives are separated by class, and yet interconnected by gender in an oppressive culture, as well as common experiences. Sera is a well-to-do woman living in opulent surroundings, but hiding the shame of a long, abusive marriage. Bhima is Sera's long-time domestic servant, who lives in a hut in the slums with her unwed, pregnant, orphaned granddaughter, Maya. Maya refuses to identify the father of her child and is ultimately forced to have an abortion. The story builds to a somewhat suspenseful climax, but falls a little flat in the end. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good novel. My copy's up for grabs - just say the word!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

America according to Connor Gifford

America according to Connor Gifford is a nice series of essays on American history written and illustrated by a young man with Down syndrome.

They are short essays that get to the heart of the subject matter. Connor's love for American history and America is evident in his writings.

Sure, the drawings and essays are simplistic, almost childlike and naive, but I love the fact that he is able to distill the spirit of each of these events to its essence.

And I love the fact that a person with Down syndrome can grasp the basics of American history! If any parent has a child in school and the school thinks they should be in "life skills" instead of history class, just bring out this book!

This one's up for grabs, too!

Road Map to Holland

I read Road Map to Holland by Jennifer Graf Groneberg quite a while ago.

Don't remember the details of the book, but the journey is familiar. I remember not wanting the book to end (and I suppose technically it doesn't, since you can continue following at Pinwheels, although I think she is on a bloggy break at the moment).

Obviously as a parent of a child with Down syndrome I could relate to a lot of this book. Although the details are different we walk the same path.

I'm ready to pass my copy along, so this one's up for grabs.

(Can you see I'm getting burned out on these book reviews now, LOL. They keep getting shorter and shorter!)

This Lovely Life

This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood by Vicki Forman is certainly popular in the disability blogging world.

It's the story of twins born at 23 weeks and the doctors refused the Do Not Resuscitate order. One twin dies and the other is multiply disabled.

It's told with brutal, heartbreaking honesty.

But it's not depressing. You can feel the mommy love she has for her surviving child, even seeking out alternative treatments.

As a parent with a child with a disability, I could certainly relate to many of her feelings.

Definitely worth reading. This one's up for grabs.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was one of our book club selections. Technically, it's Young Adult fiction, for ages 9th grade and up. But it certainly doesn't read like YA!

The book is narrated by Death, which gives it a very unique voice. Death is working very hard during WWII.

The story follows a young girl Liesel who is living with a foster family in Germany. With this family, she learns to read and develops a love of books.

There's so much going on in this book -- her family hides a Jewish refugee, she steals books from the mayor's wife, she has a wonderful best friend Rudy. And Death narrates it all, trying to be detached.

I found the perspective of the war from the average German citizen's side interesting, since so many books are written from the Jewish perspective.

Recommend this book, and pass it on to your high school age kids, if you have them!

This one's up for grabs, too!


Rules by Cynthia Lord is actually a book for kids, grade level is 4 - 7th grade.

The book is about twelve year old Catherine and her feelings for her younger brother David, who has autism. There's also a subplot about Catherine and a boy she meets (and likes) who is nonverbal, in a wheelchair and communicates with picture cards.

This is a wonderful book to discuss with kids regarding disability. I think it should be required reading for kids in school! Lots of great things to discuss. I bet most school age kids didn't know you could communicate by picture cards!

My older daughter read it a few months ago, at the end of second grade. It was a great excuse to discuss her feelings about her sister. When I read about Catherine's conflicted feelings about her brother, I wondered if my daughter felt that way about her sister.

Definitely recommend it for siblings of kids with disabilities!

This one's up for grabs!


Precious, the new critically acclaimed movie, was based on this book, Push by Sapphire.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The word I hear often to describe it is "brutal" and that would be accurate. The depictions of sexual abuse are stomach turning.

The book is written somewhat phonetically, sort of uneducated ghetto street language I suppose (not being racist here, not really sure how else to describe it). That also made it a bit difficult to read.

What really made it difficult for me to read is that Precious names her first daughter, who was born with Down syndrome, "Mongo" as in Mongoloid. Ick. I understand why in the context of the story (because Precious is very ignorant and uneducated) but it doesn't make it any easier. And of course the R word is used a lot in reference to Mongo.

The book didn't strike me to be as uplifting as the movie trailers make the movie out to be. Yes, Precious does eventually stand up for herself and try to better herself, but it's a long, hard climb and honestly, I don't know if she'll get there. The book pretty much leaves that up in the air for you to draw your own conclusion.

This one's up for grabs, too. If anyone's seen the movie, I'd love to hear your reactions to it.

Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay was one of our Book Club selections. It tells intertwining stories of Sarah, a young Jewish girl in France during WWII and Julia, a modern day journalist investigating the Jewish roundups in Paris during WWII.

Sarah's story of being rounded up and the tragedy of her little brother was riveting and educational. I did not know much about France's involvement with the Nazis and it was shocking learning about it.

However, Julia's story seemed completely trivial and annoying. While Sarah's story is very weighty, Julia's story seemed fluffy and superficial and it was jarring going back and forth between the two.

Plus the events linking Julia and Sarah seemed very contrived and Julia's story was painfully predictable, like a bad romance novel.

However, it was a quick, easy read. Probably worth reading just for Sarah's part of the story. This one's up for grabs!

Look Me in the Eye : My Life with Asperger's

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's was written by John Elder Robinson, brother of famous author Augusten Burroughs. He definitely shares his brother's twisted humor and knack for telling a story!

I have to say I really enjoyed this book. I found it completely fascinating to see how the mind of person with Asperger's works. He writes about his life from early childhood to the present and how he's changed along the way.

The writing is very straight forward, not surprising coming from the literal mind of an Aspie! The insights into his disorder are very enlightening. I especially like when he discuses how he processes conversations. An early passage about how he realized what the appropriate responses to a classmate showing him a new truck had me cracking up, because it reminded me so much of my older daughter.

He often doesn't come across as a particularly likeable, though. He plays lots of pranks and tends not to care about others' feelings.

I definitely recommend this one! I promised a copy to Lisa many months ago, let me know if you are still interested!