Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Life on this Side

On the recommendation of a friend I finally got around to reading "Just This Side of Normal: Glimpses into Life with Autism" by Elizabeth King Gerlach. This book is a brief description of life with her son, Nicky. At just over 140 pages with large print it is a very easy read. The read becomes even easier thanks to her straight forward and heartfelt writing style.

From the very beginning of the book I was in. I love her constant desire to find a connection between autism and everyday life. Her son loves to spin and she describes the looks of derision that result from his constant twirling, but she says she finds comfort in the thought that the whole world is spinning. The spinning of the Earth means that everything we do, we do spinning.

I feel very strongly about the narrative of autism that is being created in the media. Books in large measure are written to describe one extreme or the other. People with autism are being portrayed as either "savants" or "savages." These descriptions only serve to further the stigma of autism. Instead of humanizing people with autism they alienate them. This isn't to minimize the savant or their experience, but I think it is important that every aspect of the person should be explored, not only the extraordinary, but the mundane as well. This book does a great job of striking a balance between her son's savant-like abilities, his extreme rigidity and yes, even his "typical" characteristics.

I was pleasantly surprised to find many of the author's thoughts so closely reflected my own. One quote in particular made me want to stand and shout, "Amen!" Describing reactions to her son's disability she says, "Society views disability as a 'tragedy.' In fact, the greater tragedy is society's larger and erroneous view that their is such a state as 'normal.' This view, in itself, sometimes feels like a greater burden than the disability." Beautiful. Simple. Absolutely how I feel.

This book meanders and wanders from story to story, experience to experience leaving you, at times, to wonder if it getting anywhere. In this it is truly a "glimpse into life with autism." Life with autism frequently seems to go from one experience to another leaving you to wonder if you are getting anywhere.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a very honest and simple look at life with autism, with no agendas or hook. Please, borrow this book from me. No, seriously read this one!


Stella Andes said...

Your review of the book is so very well-written, Jared! It sounds like a great book to read, not only for those who have children with autism, but for everyone!

Heather and Thomas Mann said...

sounds great! i'd love to borrow it sometime!

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