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Boy Alone: A Brother's Memoir

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3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  349 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Karl Taro Greenfeld knew from an early age that his little brother, Noah, was not like other children. He couldn't crawl, and he had trouble making eye contact or interacting with his family. As Noah grew older, his differences became even more pronounced—he was unable to communicate verbally, use the toilet, or tie his shoes, and despite his angelic demeanor, he often had ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books
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(showing 1-30 of 944)
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Dean
May 14, 2009 Dean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greenfeld has written a powerful, maddening book, pitting sentences that are a joy to read against a raw honesty that is almost impossible to accept. It is a work of philosophy as endurance contest. The story of his profoundly autistic younger brother, Noah, is a descent by degrees, the deterioration of a child who begins with all the ordinary promise of his big brother but then slides irrevocably to become a mute and sometimes violent and possibly insane adult.

In the burgeoning field of works o
...more
Thais
Mar 02, 2013 Thais rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Di solito i libri sugli autistici sono narrati dai loro genitori e raccontano di bambini che, crescendo, fanno qualche progresso o a volte escono miracolosamente dal loro guscio. Oppure le loro storie si fermano all'adolescenza, perché i ragazzini non sono ancora cresciuti e il loro futuro si può solo immaginare.
Ma Noah ha più di quarant'anni adesso, e non ha mai parlato. È un autistico a basso funzionamento, e seguire la sua storia non dà speranza: mostra semplicemente le difficoltà, i drammi,
...more
Terry
Oct 19, 2009 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Just...wow. I am telling anyone who is even slightly interested in this book: whatever you think this book is, it is NOT. I feel this book will attract people interested in triumphing-over-the-odds memoirs, or Jenny McCarthy acolytes, and you will all be confused and disappointed. So whatever preconceived notion you have, forget it now.

I can't really say much more about this book without spoiling one of its bigger sucker punches. What I can say is that that writing is amazing--precise, con
...more
Lara
I asked my pals at HarperCollins for this book because I used to babysit (in college) for two brothers, and one was autistic while the other was not. Although I was a bit on-again/off-again with my interest level on this book, I mostly found it fascinating and heartbreaking...and guilt-inducing, since I quit babysitting the brothers when the autistic one started getting old enough (and big enough) to hurt me when he was frustrated. Boy Alone is also eye-opening, to say the least, with regards to ...more
Julie
May 27, 2015 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. And I am picky about my books about autism. Most of them are not true enough for me. There are so many books about people who have an ASD on the higher end of things, who maybe are a little odd or a little quiet or take a little longer to reach some milestones, but then they make a break through and blah blah blah, happy ending. That doesn't work for me. I see this every day, and there is not always a happy ending. Of course, I want there to be. I work tirelessly every day to t ...more
Christel Lim
Jul 30, 2010 Christel Lim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I definitely like the way he writes. I think he can express the perspective from a child's point of view and also that of a brother easily. The transmission from that to the view of a grown up is also clearly noted.

His writing style is what I enjoyed through out the whole book. It is clear, precise, sharp-accurate to the point in conveying his thoughts, emotions and feelings which gives anyone a clear picture of what the author went through.

The emotions the author describes are raw, real and h
...more
Kathryn
Dec 06, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started kind of slowly, but it sucked me in. By the time I got to the last part of it, I couldn't put it down. The author says that this book started out to be a general book about autism, and it shows. Occasionally the author lapses into long passages about autism, that don't seem to quite fit with the story of two brothers.

Honest, both in his telling of the story and in his dealing with the deeper questions of his life with his brother.

So, untimately, the theme of this book is: "Am I my
...more
Keri
Sep 08, 2010 Keri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book after hearing Karl Greenfeld in an interview on NPR. I was fascinated by the idea because most memoirs of families with disabled members focus only on triumph over adversity and while hope of truimph is necessary, focusing only on the positive aspects negates some of the feelings that caregivers and families of the disabled have every day. Greenfeld is open and honest about his feelings growing up with Noah and the effects it had on his family. Without spoiling anything, I ...more
Carla Jenkins
Feb 08, 2012 Carla Jenkins rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I reviewed this book on Amazon when it first came out. At that time, I gave it four stars because the writing was very good and the story was one that needed to be told. However, the author delivers a sucker punch to readers that I think would be particularly painful to families of children newly diagnosed with autism. These families are quite dear to my heart. I thought at the time that I'd eventually come to see his justifications for that literary trick, but three years later, I still don't b ...more
Melissa
May 10, 2010 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every parent or adult sibling of an autistic person should read this book. Anyone who enjoys brave, raw, honest memoirs should read this book. Greenfeld voices some of autism's dirty little secrets and, though he doesn't really have any answers, it's time someone asked these questions.
Nette
Aug 29, 2009 Nette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yikes. I read this whole book in one very hot afternoon, and I think it's going to stay with me for a while. It's searingly honest -- I've been trying to think of a word to describe a memoir that's the opposite of "sugar-coated" (raw? flayed?) -- and very well written.
Morninglight Mama
I cannot begin to estimate how many times I starred passages, highlighted particular segments and stained the pages of this book with my tears. Gut-wrenchingly honest and without mincing words, Greenfeld describes in great detail his perspective as a sibling of a severely autistic child. Because of my own experiences growing up with a sister with significant cognitive delays and psychological impairments, this book hit home hard. I respect Greenfeld for his ability to say exactly how he felt, an ...more
Erica
Jul 24, 2015 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A rare achievement- this memoir is both brutally truthful and disturbingly awakening. Greenfeld has written a powerful and maddening book, pitting sentences that are a joy to read against a raw honesty that is almost impossible to accept. It is a work of philosophy as endurance contest. The story of his profoundly autistic younger brother, Noah, is a descent by degrees, the deterioration of a child who begins with all the ordinary promise of his big brother but then slides irrevocably to become ...more
Jaclyn
Feb 24, 2012 Jaclyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won't give away any spoilers, but let me just say this: DO NOT, under any circumstances, read this in public. Like, say, on an airplane. There's a very interesting and well-done twist that very much caught me off-guard, and when I realized what it was, I put the book back into my bag and informed the beau, "DO NOT let me finish this in public. If you see me pulling it out again, punch me in the face." So I finished it in a hotel room in Mexico. Most depressing book ever for a vacation, but sti ...more
Hopenafuture
What a sobering look at life with an autistic sibling. The perspective of a brother is unique, different than that of a parent. He is only now, as a father, learning what was different about the sibling relationship he had with his brother. Though book is primarily autobiographical, as in real life, a lot of the energy in the book is focused on Noah, rather than on Karl. I can see the parallel in reflection; as I read, I was not even aware that the main character in the book was, in fact, the au ...more
Sarah
Having read a plethora of uplifting fairytale stories of hope, perseverance, and the ultimate family triumph in my exploration of autism-related memoirs and literature, at first glance this book seemed incredibly, undeniably depressing.

A slap in the face, really, for a girl who spends her days engaging those whom society has deemed inherently aloof; teaching and befriending a unique and wonderful group of individuals; redirecting aggressive bites, scratches, globs of flying spit, and innumerable
...more
ABC
Dec 01, 2012 ABC rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teens-and-adults
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Yvonne
Sep 06, 2015 Yvonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most heart-rending books I've read. It is a very sincere and very detailed memoir written by the brother of a severely autistic sibling. Karl Greenfeld writes beautifully of the conflicts and emotional effects on the whole family. The helplessness and hopelessness of the situation is almost overwhelming. Powerful and extremely painful, it is a book one can't forget in a hurry.
Jennifer
Aug 11, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I randomly found this book on the library shelf and decided to read it because my son has an Asperger's diagnosis. Yes, Noah, the author's brother, has low-functioning autism, so I knew the book content would be different from my experience. However, the book taught me a lot about autism treatments in the 60s and 70s. People like Noah underwent extremely harsh treatment and abuse in the name of curing autism. Because of them, my son has access to quality care that really works. The book was also ...more
Paula Gallagher
Sep 17, 2009 Paula Gallagher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Teri
Jan 03, 2015 Teri rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up because I am a mother of two and my youngest does have Autism. Both are boys just like in this book and I thought it would give me some insight on how my oldest may feel about this or at least how the author dealt with things. Also how the parents handled them aging and their youngest still needing care. That said I didn't finish this book I gave it 50 pages and couldn't read one more. It was terribly written the author was ALL over the place all the time I found it hard to ...more
Shelley
Jul 14, 2012 Shelley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had a hard time with this one, but am glad I read it. A group of nurses were reading it at a conference I attended, and I thought it sounded good.
Overall, the subject matter of growing up with an autistic brother in the 60's and 70's was clearly addressed and I did empathize with his parents and the family as a whole. The review of child development and psychology was also interesting, but read very much like a text book.
It easily could have been 100 pages shorter and still got the story and p
...more
Mary
Aug 30, 2014 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Karl Greenfeld has written a hard-to-put-down memoir of growing up with a (famous) autistic brother. Readers who know the book A Child Called Noah from the 1970s will know one side of Greenfeld's story already: his father's memoir of raising Noah, Karl's brother. Now Karl tells the family story from his point of view. One thing that Karl emphasizes is that to a young child, "what is, is." Karl did not have any other brother to compare Noah with. Of course, with age comes awareness. Karl Greenfel ...more
Barb
Jul 11, 2011 Barb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Boy Alone: A Brother’s Memoir, is, well, a memoir about growing up with a severely autistic brother, who happens to be the most famous autistic kid in America, at least in the 1970s. The author’s dad, Josh Greenfeld, wrote three books about living with and exploring treatment options for an autistic child. There were appearances on the Today show and 60 Minutes, and articles in Time. Karl Greenfeld, the author, writes about growing up against the backdrop of his parents’ focus on his younger bro ...more
Kathleen
Jul 17, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Difficult childhoods aren't all alike. Sometimes it is an alcoholic, poverty stricken or mentally ill parent. In this case, severely autistic Noah, takes up all of the anxious parents' time and attention, putting the older brother Karl on a seesaw of emotion, and at times guilt for being "normal". Karl's father is Jewish, his mother Japanese. Every decision is made for Noah's well-being, including a move to Southern California. Karl's father writes about Noah in life Magazine, which was interest ...more
Cindy
The author's father (Josh Greenfeld) wrote books and a series of magazine articles about his autistic son in the early '70's - A Child Called Noah - Karl Taro Greenfeld is Noah's brother.

Having worked with autistic children, I found this book to be an insight I'll never know. Greenfeld is very honest about his feelings for his brother and about himself - a drug user and petty theif.

The education of Noah is a history of the education of autistic kids.


***Spoiler***
I didn't like Greenfled's fant
...more
Charlotte
This memoir serves two important purposes--it provides the neurotypical child's experience of growing up (and older) with a profoundly autistic, nonverbal sibling, and it offers a chilling glimpse of how autism was diagnosed and handled in the early days of applied behavioral science. It's obviously not a casual read, but for those who who have an interest I think it's extremely valuable. There's a zinger towards the end (I won't divulge it) that had me feeling cheated after I read the entire bo ...more
Writerbj
Aug 23, 2009 Writerbj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb, painfully honest account of growing up the sibling of a severely autistic child. Karl Taro Greenfeld's life and sense of identity were going to be complicated anyway, as he was the son of a Japanese artist mother and Jewish American writer father. But those complications were infinitely compounded by growing up in the shadow of his younger brother Noah, probably the best-known autistic child in America at that time (due to three books published by father Josh Greenfeld). Karl's searing ...more
Valarie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth
May 07, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Heartbreaking, fascinating, and compulsively readable. Noah's story traces the history of "therapy" for autism in American in all its ludicrous glory -- Bettelheim's blame-in-on-the-mother theory; the early behaviorists' hit-them-and-make-them-behave, and finally, just warehouse them. But Noah is a person and his brother makes us see that. Noah becomes real and we care about him. As a special needs mom, I will never forget certain passages in this book. Greenfeld really gets what it's like to pa ...more
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I'm the author of six books, including the recent novel Triburbia, the story collection NowTrends, the memoir Boy Alone and the Japanese youth culture collection Speed Tribes
More about Karl Taro Greenfeld...

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“lacerating pilgrimage…the disruptive and expensive treks from specialist to specialist, city to city, trying to buy hope.” Or what Pearl S. Buck, years earlier about her own retarded and autistic child, calls, “That long journey of which parents of such children know so well…Driven by conviction that there must be someone who can cure…we” 0 likes
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