So there's a genre of book about a child protagonist who has one (or many) precocious quirks. And it sounds like it would be too twee to be acceptableSo there's a genre of book about a child protagonist who has one (or many) precocious quirks. And it sounds like it would be too twee to be acceptable, but somehow I'm addicted. And in the same vein as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet we have 100 Sideways Miles. Finn Easton measures time in the distance the Earth has traveled in its orbit (20 miles/second), makes frequent references to the Knackery, and refers to his seizures as "blanking out." And he is so real and so endearing that it never feels twee.
The central premise of the book is one giant metaphor for coming of age: Finn's father, the famous writer Michael Easton, wrote a book about aliens that come to Earth through Lazarus Doors and used Finn's name for the protagonist, as well as several of his physical characteristics (his :|: scar from when a horse landed on him, his heterochromia) and personality quirks. Only these aliens are Not Human. Finn is not sure whether he is a real person or just an alien from his father's book -- and on a greater level is trying to figure out whether he's normal and how he fits into the world. I'm a sucker for a coming of age story, and this one is done well. (For no good reason, a huge network in my hippocampus is dedicated to recognizing Night Journey stories -- a coming of age genre made up by my high school English class that doesn't exist in the real world.)
Finally, it's worth noting that there are few books that allow characters of color to have a narrative of their own that doesn't revolve around their ethnicity. Julia Bishop is a refreshing counterpoint as a character of color, who's allowed to develop her own personality and her own story. ...more
Nussbaum succeeds at her goal here: to write a book about characters with disabilities, who have personalities beyond their disabilities, interact witNussbaum succeeds at her goal here: to write a book about characters with disabilities, who have personalities beyond their disabilities, interact with each other and with characters who are able-bodied. The characters are fully fleshed out and interesting, realistic characters.
But this absolutely comes off as a political piece. It is certainly enjoyable in its own right, but it is impossible to read without thinking of it as a piece about disability-rights, criticizing institutions (which, I agree with in spirit, but also agree that there are nuances to the discussion not fully elucidated here.) and discussing discrimination, over-utilization of intelligence and personality testing and casting a cynical eye over seemingly all parties involved in providing care to those with disabilities.
Perhaps the best part of the book is that Nussbaum portrays even most of her villains as human, simply ignorant or over-worked or otherwise preoccupied. She does have a few truly irredeemable characters, but by and large, especially for a piece trying to make a statement, this is done well -- an invitation to dialogue. ...more
This was an unexpected delight. The love story of a man, Maxon, who uses pseudocode to define his verbal and emotional responses to the world and hisThis was an unexpected delight. The love story of a man, Maxon, who uses pseudocode to define his verbal and emotional responses to the world and his wife, Sunny, born with complete alopecia in Burma. The real heart of the novel is the tension between Sunny's desire to fit in with the world as it is, and hide her baldness, as a metaphor for the things that make us different from others, coming to terms with wanting to be the hero of a world of one's own making, with those who are different from us being the outsiders.
The writing is gorgeous. The story beneath the story, of Maxon going to help colonize the moon is interesting and numerous backstories flesh out both characters as full, flawed people, not just subject to the plot. ...more
A fairly realistic voice for an autistic protagonist. I found it preferable to the other YA autism book I read at the same time (Al Capone Does My ShiA fairly realistic voice for an autistic protagonist. I found it preferable to the other YA autism book I read at the same time (Al Capone Does My Shirts), but not having read YA in a long time, parts seemed very superficial. In addition, the character sometimes seemed young or naive in a way that does not sync with my experience with high functioning individuals on the autism spectrum...more
I have developed an obsession with Lucy Grealy. Two years ago, I found Autobiography of a Face in a Goodwill, and picked it up simply because of how cI have developed an obsession with Lucy Grealy. Two years ago, I found Autobiography of a Face in a Goodwill, and picked it up simply because of how cool the title was. And then I got hooked. I think of Lucy almost as someone I know and am friends with. I feel like I know her, and her foibles are therefore half exasperating, but half endearing. Like, there she is, Lucy, being a little self-involved again. So Lucy.
So from that context, As Seen on TV is everything I expected. She goes on stream of consciousness asides that wander maybe a little too much, but similarly, that's endearing. Her personality spills out everywhere in the book and that's probably its greatest strength. The essays absolutely feel raw, and in a lot of ways, that makes them more readable. However, I'm less able to gloss over the uneveness of the collection. There are some stellar pieces about a lost brother, about being on TV, about horseback riding, but some completely useless pieces. I felt that way especially about the last few essays, which are completely dry and use a lot of pseudointellectual jargon without saying much of anything. Lucy is lovable for her lack of editing and her closeness to her subject. Anything beyond her creative autobiographical nonfiction just falls flat for me....more
Harriet McBryde Johnson may have looked at her life as being "too late to die young;" however, she died younger than she should have and her unique, pHarriet McBryde Johnson may have looked at her life as being "too late to die young;" however, she died younger than she should have and her unique, powerful voice was lost to us. I tend to be skeptical about freshman novels, skeptical about the first person, skeptical about authorial self-inserts and skeptical about manifestos parading as novels. Accidents of Nature falls into all of the above categories; however, it is transcendent.
First and foremost, for a lawyer with no formal training on creative writing, Johnson has an unbelievable knack with characterization. Her characters are understated, but unique; flawed but sympathetic. Even characters that disagree with her point of view are granted strengths. The message in Accidents of Nature is very similar to that of "Too Late to Die Young;" however, in novel format, it is somehow easier to understand -- that Johnson is suggesting an approach that is taken to all people with disabilities, not just razor sharp Southern ADA lawyers who happen to be disabled. And while groups such as Disability is Natural are beginning to champion similar movements, Johnson is one of the first and one of the loudest to take her approach to the disability movement. Accidents of Nature is guaranteed to challenge how all of us think disability and Johnson makes it clear, by inserting a caricature of herself, that even she is not above reproach.
I read this in a sitting, but it will stay with me for a long, long time....more
The problem sometimes is that I fall so in love with a title, that the book cannot possibly compare. This is one of those books. It was good - a cuteThe problem sometimes is that I fall so in love with a title, that the book cannot possibly compare. This is one of those books. It was good - a cute YA book about dealing with a sibling with severe autism. Alcatraz loosely features as a supporting character, mostly in cameo....more