The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy
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The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  457 ratings  ·  141 reviews
Priscilla Gilman had the greatest expectations for the birth of her first child. Growing up in New York among writers and artists, Gilman experienced childhood as a whirlwind of imagination and creative play. Later, as a student and scholar of Wordsworth, she embraced the poet's romantic view of children—and eagerly anticipated her son's birth, certain that he, too, would...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books
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This is the funniest unintentionally funny book I've ever read (and it's utterly humorless, so that's quite an achievement). Pampered author, herself the daughter of NYC intellectual royalty, meets and marries a smart guy with obvious mental issues, pops out a genius kid with emotional problems, and intersperses her tale with romantic poetry to try and make sense of the whole thing, when the whole thing can be summed up with two unromantic words: "Shit happens." Plus, it's unbelievably braggy. (...more
The child of two literature scholars begins reading precociously early but has developmental delays in every other area, including motor skills. He's eventually diagnosed with an autism-spectrum disorder called "hyperlexia." What an interesting and under-reported problem! (Not to be confused with hypergraphia, which Alice Flaherty described in her fascinating and beautifully written 2005 book, The Midnight Disease.) Unfortunately, I can't really recommend this book except perhaps to the parent o...more
I checked this book out of the library after my husband forwarded me an education blog post that quoted the book. I spent the past two weeks slogging through what I found to be a narcissistic refusal to acknowledge reality. I get the whole idea of having this romantic ideal child before your kid is born and then having to face the truth once the baby is here that life isn't all roses and puppies and rainbows and hey, your kid's diapers stink just like every other diaper on the planet. However, M...more
I am actually not sure who I would recommend this book to. I think people who would be interested in a memoir about raising a special-needs child, especially in a milieu of super-high-intellectual-achieving individuals, would be rather put off by Gilman's unique take and tone. On one hand I totally "get" where she's going by weaving her own private passion for Wordsworth and Romantic poetry and ideals into her decidedly unromantic "real" life full of struggle and frustration and misery and shame...more
I was really intrigued by this book at the start -- the story of a boy so incredibly brilliant that his parents don't realize until he's about three that there is something seriously different about him. It was fascinating to read of his early reading, his obsession with books and words, but also his inability to interact with people and the anxieties he was plagued with.

The constant interweaving of Wordsworth poems, and the author's analysis of them, were just a little obsessive to me; half th...more
A memoir written by a woman whose child is hyperlexic. Hyperlexia is one of the diagnoses that fit (and still fits) my daughter. Hyperlexic children show an early and extreme fascination with letters and numbers, often teaching themselves to read before the age of four. They also exhibit sensory issues, fine and gross motor delays, and social difficulties While people debate whether it is a distinct diagnosis or always co-morbid with autism, the challenges are often similar. My daughter taught h...more
The Anti-Romantic Child

This was a First Reads giveaway I was lucky enough to win and I was excited to dive when it came in the mail a few weeks later.

While I understand that the opening of the book is meant to set up the romantic nature and charmed life of the author, it didn't sit quite right with me. It's not a life most readers are going to be able to identify with - the pre-war upper westside childhood apartment, the weekend home in Connecticut, trips to Spain - and immediately imposes a dis...more
I won this book as part of Goodreads giveaways. What prompted me to enter the contest in the first place was the book seemed to be a story of hope and joy in the midst of "failings" and unexpected events. I was not disappointed. I became engrossed in Priscilla Gilman's story about her life and her relationship with her son, Benj. I love how her story talks of how to find the joy in what the world may label as "different", "special, or "disabled". To see the whole of a person and all that they br...more
Lisa Maruca
There is a poignant irony in the fate of two English grad students who produce a child with, of all problems, hyperlexia, and Gilman is honest in the journey she takes from feeling brashly proud of her genius child to worried about his quirks, and from despair over the limits that diagnosis places on individual complexity, to quiet pride in all her son's real and hard-earned accomplishments. As a fellow lover of Wordsworth, I could appreciate Gilman's attempt to use his poetry to structure her...more
Todd Kashdan
This is a profoundly moving book where the beauty, pleasures, pain, and uncertainty of parenting is laid naked for the reader. None of us received an instruction manual on how to parent. And if we did, most of it would be non-applicable to the unique characters we're raising. This story captures the tension of raising a precocious child with special needs. How do you honor their strengths and uniqueness while simultaneously trying to get them to fit into a society that values normalcy and obedie...more
Jane Hammons
This is a memoir and a "parenting" book that deserves a wide audience. It is beautifully written and unique, not only in the account of Benj, the child with hyperplexia (a condition much more complex than its name might suggest--it is not merely the reverse of dyslexia), but also because Gilman chooses to frame the book in reference to Wordsworth, which I don't think always works. But the choice to reflect on her own childhood as well as Benj's (and later that of her other son James) in this way...more
As an English teacher, I tell my students that myths, poetry and stories are writers' attempts to make sense of things that seem beyond explanation. As the mother of a now-grown, very successful son who was in special ed through his public school years, I have seen all kinds of parents struggle with all kinds of special needs kids. A lot of times, the smartest, most privileged parents had the hardest time accepting a kid who just wasn't quite...typical. The author, who is a Wordsworth scholar, m...more
Although I didn't share Gilman's understanding of Wordsworth, the poet gave a great deal of comfort to Gilman as she embarked on her journey into mothering a child different "normal." I found a great deal of guidance in the way she handled doctors, educators, and family.

Gilman's son has a developmental disorder I'd not heard of yet her struggles resonated with my own. The difference between us (apart from the diagnosis) was her incredible articulation of her feelings, ideas, thoughts, and lack...more
A very interesting memoir about a young woman with an idyllic childhood spent imaging stories and games with her younger sister and father and dreaming of her own future family. She imagines that will be an English professor married to another English professor. They will have a home near campus and raise five perfect children who will inherit their talents. Some of this come true until the first child arrives. He is brilliant but cold, reads early, and understands little. The family’s life turn...more
It's hard to explain why this book set my teeth on edge but it did. Lucky her for digging her way out while the rest of us slog in the trenches. I know it's not because she loves Wordsworth. I do too. Maybe it's because she's so super awesome and she lives in New York City. That's probably it. Anyway the first half of this book I alternately spent yelling at her to get that child evaluated (though I understand why she didn't) and stop talking about that ridiculous ideal childhood. Who has one of...more
Lila Weaver
Beautifully written. I learned a great deal about autism spectrum and many of the challenges and joys possible for the families of these amazing children.
This woman is in denial that her child is autistic! Holy Wordsworth overkill just tell the story.
My response to The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy by Priscilla Gilman was so strong and so personal I doubt if I can write a reasonable review.

What I can say is the Gilman writes beautifully, she presents relationships, familial and romantically, with clarity while retaining the complexity of those relationships and of the individuals involved. She is never dismissive nor does she take the route of easy judgments.

I was fascinated by her childhood (I too grew up on Manhattan's Upp...more
Reading THE ANTI-ROMANTIC CHILD was a dual-toned experience: on the one hand, it is utterly relatable, but on the other its scholarly approach can feel detached and distancing. Overall, I enjoyed it, as much for its differences from other books in the genre as for its similarities.

The story deals with Priscilla Gilman's life with her son, Benjamin, who over the course of the book is diagnosed with hyperlexia. Ms. Gilman also describes her early life before her son's birth; she recounts her perso...more
Jun 22, 2011 Coollibrarian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents, educators, special needs, autism
i received this book for free from the publisher through the good reads program and appreciated the chance to read it as i was interested in the subject on multiple levels. i don't have it in hand as i have passed it on to a friend-i was that impressed.

The book is an autobiography elaborating several levels of the author's life: the daughter of interesting but not necessarily stable parents, an academic high achiever who married another brilliant but flawed academic, and the mother of two disti...more
Nicole Arocho
‘My father reassured me that it was all right not to know, to remain in a state of awe and mystery. He gave what could’ve been a nightmare “the glory and freshness of a dream.”’

Priscilla Gilman wrote The Anti-Romatic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy with a thousand sentences just like these two. Because of the personal level of her writing, her emotions flourish throughout the whole book. She delights the reader’s eyes with beautiful sentences decorated with quotes from her favorite poet, Willia...more
Kim Wombles
In my American Literature course this semester, I worked to weave Joseph Campbell’s vision of the purpose of mythology throughout the pieces we read, to get students to consider the role that literature, in its many mediums, plays in providing the bedrock on which we live our lives and derive meaning. In a world in which religion no longer dominate our culture and for many people no longer lives and breathes, providing the answers for all life’s mysteries and meanings, the stories we listen to,...more
Michael Steger
As a father of two young children and as a lover of poetry, I immediately fell under the spell of this lovingly-told account of raising an unusual child, which, in its way, is also an extended homage to the great, often exultant poetry of William Wordsworth (the author is an erstwhile Wordsworth scholar).

This is a memoir about parenting, but it is also a story of the author's own fascinating childhood; it is a story of certain corners of the East Coast literary and academic milieus; it is a sto...more
Carla Herbert
I received this book through Goodreads in return for a review.

I absolutely adored the journey that Ms Gilman so eloquently provided. Her personal struggle with not having the "perfect" child was heart rendering familiar to any parent and yet unnerving to read the true struggle she faced accepting her child not as she wished he was, but rather as he was at the moment. Towards the end of the book, Ms Gilman states, "I've always wanted to make life just right for those I loved, but through my exper...more
Sarah Joyce Bryant
I began this book, as a mother of a child with Asperger’s syndrome, not quite sure what to expect. However, I quickly fell in love with how Priscilla Gilman related so much of her experiences to her most beloved poetry. As a reader, you can literally feel the perception shift in Gilman as she comes to terms with the special needs of her son by the way her interpretations of poetry shift. I could relate so well to Gilman’s experiences with her son. I was shocked, though, when I came across the pa...more
Megan Palasik
I won this book from a first-reads giveaway.

I will start by saying that I am not a person who "understands" or enjoys poetry. I was more intrigued by this book because it is a mother's memoir of her trials and joys of raising a child with special needs (which turn out to be hyperlexia, among other things). With that said, I liked the overall story, but was very distracted by the bits of poetry throughout the book.

This book was difficult to get into at first and took me quite a while to read bec...more
Author and one-time literature professor Priscilla Gilman wishes for her newborn son Benjamin the playful, highly imaginative childhood she herself enjoyed growing up. But soon it becomes apparent that Benj suffers from a developmental disorder, one that prevents him from fully engaging in the sort of creative and expressive play Gilman herself once experienced.

I imagine most would-be parents entertain fantasies of what their future child will be like, what character traits they will inherit, h...more
I can’t say that I didn’t like the book. Then again I can’t say that I did like the book. I just didn’t connect with it. It is not often that I come across a book that I just don’t get but this was one of them. I felt like she wrote about all the emotions she felt, but I didn’t feel them jumping out of the book. Maybe it’s because I didn’t understand her.

I believe everyone has romantic notions when it comes to having children. We all want to “do it better” than our parents did. We want to be our...more
Sherri Byrand
My deep appreciation for Priscilla Gilman’s book The Unromantic Child is two-pronged. First, without sap or spite, Gilman reveals her journey of enlightenment as a mother, for how she aligned herself with her son’s needs and gifts, reconciling to reality.

From that last sentence above it is too easy to think that this is a book just for the parents of children with special needs. Of course, it shares a perspective that they should find helpful. It certainly reached out to me, as I have a son who...more
Gilman laces her memoir with the Romantic poetry which both framed her expectations for family life and sustained her when those dreams seemed to be crashing down around her. In doing so, she goes beyond recounting the realization that something is amiss, the frustrating process of evaluations and therapies, and the effects of it all on her marriage and career. Through poetry, she reframes her own idea of a romantic childhood, of meaningful relationships, of her son and her self, and finds joy.

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MOTHERS Book Bag: Book Review: The Anti-Romantic Child 1 11 Mar 01, 2012 05:02PM  
  • Beginning With the End: A Memoir of Twin Loss and Healing
  • Sweet so Fragile
  • The Man Who Left
  • Santa Claus and Little Sister
  • I Can Only Give You Everything
  • Self-published version: At the End: A Post-Apocalyptic Novel (The Road to Extinction, #1)
  • Ascending Into Euphoria: A Collection of Poetry
  • Cameron's Court
  • Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye
  • No Alternative
  • Us
  • A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness
  • 6 Seconds of Life
  • The Elephant in the Playroom: Ordinary Parents Write Intimately and Honestly About the Extraordinary Highs and Heartbreaking Lows of Raising Kids with Special Needs
  • Puppet
  • A Charmed Life
  • A Touch of Honor (The Honor Trilogy #1)
  • Seven Tears
Priscilla Gilman is the author of The Anti-Romantic Child: A Memoir of Unexpected Joy (Harper), a beautiful exploration of one woman’s expectations and hopes for her children, her family, and herself, and of the ways in which we are all capable of reimagining our lives and finding joy in the most unexpected circumstances. The Anti-Romantic Child was one of five nominees for a Books for a Better Li...more
More about Priscilla Gilman...

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“Children put everything in perspective, they remind you of what's important, you see the world anew through there eyes.” 4 likes
“Living with Benj was like experiencing an unfolding miracle.” 2 likes
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