The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal by Jonathan Mooney
This book, as it turns out, is a jewel that has been sitting on my to-be-read bookshelf, gathering dust, for over a year.
The author, Jonathan Mooney, was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD in elementary school, and labeled "severely learning disabled." As a result, he was placed in special ed classes and grew up riding the proverbial "short bus" with the other special ed kids. The short bus, to the author, came to symbolize the feelings of marginalization for being different, or not normal.
As an adult, after graduating with honors from Brown University, Jon, still carrying around the pain of growing up different, buys an old short bus and goes on a three-month long odyssey from one end of the United States to the other and back again, meeting, interviewing, and profiling roughly a dozen "different" people along the way, ranging from a young deaf-blind girl who curses people out in sign language, to a teen labeled with ADHD, to a transgendered man who lives in a shack with no running water, to a young woman with Down syndrome, to a middle age man with autism - and several others in between. Jon goes on this journey hoping to come to terms with his own differences, hoping to learn from other individuals relegated to the fringes of society, and hoping most of all, to come out of the experience a different person. Along the way he faces his own prejudices and confronts his own notions of what's normal and what's not, and most of all, how arbitrary and mythical "normal" really is. He does come away from the experience changed, if only in the sense that he finally accepts himself for who and what he is.
I was so moved and impacted by this book. I laughed, and I cried, and I was moved by every single person the author met on his journey. I was, of course, drawn most of all to the young woman with Down syndrome, and I loved what seemed to be a very honest, genuine portrayal.
I have plans to expound on how this impacted me on my other blog, Finnian's Journey; stay tuned.
I highly encourage anyone touched in any way by difference or disability to read this book. Hell, I'd love everyone to read it, just to get a sense of what it's like to live one's life being made to feel different and therefore less than.
I'm keeping my copy; I underlined and highlighted so many passages, I can't give it away. But go get yourself a copy!