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Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  2,642 ratings  ·  354 reviews
What if you were trapped in a Disney movie? In all of them, actually – from Dumbo to Peter Pan to The Lion King -- and had to learn about life and love mostly from what could be gleaned from animated characters, dancing across a screen of color? Asking this question opens a doorway to the most extraordinary of stories. It is the saga of Owen Suskind, who happens to be the ...more
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Kingswell
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  2,642 ratings  ·  354 reviews

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Apr 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
I had three problems with this book. First, the author, who is quick to tell us that he won a Pulitzer, was the wrong one to write this book. His wife, also a journalist, spends far more time with their autistic son; why didn't she tell their story? It can't be that Pulitzer, because Suskind is guilty of the shmaltz he tells the readers good reporters avoid. And his writing is confusing. I often reread his run-on-sentences to try to figure out what he was trying to say. Second, the author's son ...more
Frank Riccobono
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a very biased review. I'm an avid reader with a sentimental temperament. Books often get to me, but I've never felt as emotionally connected to a book as I have to this one.

I am almost exactly Walt's age give or take a few months, and I have an autistic brother who's just a year older than Owen. I grew up in this 90s Disney generation with him, and, although I and my parents are different from the Suskinds in many ways, I could identify with so much of this book.

It was at parts painful
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: autism
I really wanted to love this book. I so, so wanted to love it. The idea of using a child's interests to help them meet their goals, to run with it, to let it be the world, to not worry about whether it's "too much" -- I love that concept. But that's not exactly what this is...

It felt like the book was a race against time to make Owen as "normal" as possible. Achievements were only celebrated when they met what the adults wanted -- a glimpse of "something more". Stereotypes of people with autism
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks-library
This is a pretty good read about how a family experienced their autistic son Owen and how he learned to survive his life with Asperger's through the teachings of disney films and the sidekicks in them. If you want to read more, be sure to check this book out at your local library and wherever books are sold as well as check out the film by the same name too. ...more
Laura Evans
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't normally write reviews, but this book deserves one. Suskind tells a deeply personal story about how his autistic son, Owen, used animated movies -- mostly the older, hand drawn Disney films -- as a toolkit to access and develop his ability to understand not only spoken and written language but also emotions, relationships, and his identity. Owen is a guy who was born "neurotypical" but developed the regressive form of autism, such that by the age of three he had lost his language and sen ...more
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It spoke to me on so many levels - as a mother, as someone who briefly studied Art Therapy, as inspiration for what constitutes a strong family & how to face adversity together...beautifully written, personal story of how a family searches to reconnect with their son, Owen, who is diagnosed with autism.

I can't remember the last book I read where I cried and laughed on the same page! Ron Suskind sure can draw the emotions out of me. On page 217, he is writing about how Owen ha
Jul 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Hm. I imagine this is a fairly polarizing read.

The good: it was certainly readable, though slick. Kept my attention and kept me reading enough that I finished it in just a few days.

Everybody's journey, and everybody's pain, is different, and big to them. I think it's completely legitimate that this family struggled with their son's autism, and that it was genuinely challenging and painful. That said, it is really, really hard to feel deep empathy for parents who are so very privileged and well
Laura Cushing
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Meh. On the fence about this book. On the one hand it is beautifully written, and an amazing story of how a family connected through their autistic son's special interest. On the other hand, it is very much a tale of privilege and the great divide between the futures of autistic who have all the advantages a rich family provides, and those like myself who never had the advantages of childhood therapy, a behavioral specialist, assisted living, specialized assistance and schools. This is all gloss ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
A rather moving video clip on "The Daily Show" and a young relative of mine who may be on the border of the autism spectrum combined to pique my interest in this book, and it didn't disappoint. Suskind turns his Pulitzer Prize-winning talent for journalistic storytelling on his own family's struggle to help his autistic son Owen. I'm not much of a crier, nor am I a parent. But Suskind's story was a cry fest for me, and I mean that in a good way. And the tale of how he and his wife discover the b ...more
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Caution: Do not read this in public if you, like me, are an ugly crier. But definitely, definitely read it.

Suskind, in my opinion, is at his best here in how he threads painful pieces of reality through a mesmerizing and moving narrative. He (and the whole Kennedy-Suskind clan) is a hell of a sidekick here. Owen, though, is an inspiration. Really, his perseverance blew me out of the water and his father very beautifully captures the quietest and most contemplative moments like a beam of light th
Sarah Foster
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
I first heard of this book thanks to the excerpt that appeared in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks back.

I picked up the book, interested to read the rest of the Suskind's story.

The book blew me away.

As someone who doesn't yet have kids, but has been surrounded by "different" kids all my life (my father used to work at a Community Living until I was 12, my uncle is mentally handicapped and my youngest cousin is autistic), I thought I was prepared for reading about Owen.

And for the most p
Kiwi Carlisle
Sep 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
This is the rambling, badly-edited tale of a pair of wealthy parents who bought their non-neurotypical son the privilege of growing up into a semi-independent adult. Suskind lards the book with constant cues for the reader to find it inspirational, which put my back right up. I suggest that he stick with the shorter form journalism with which he made his name and won his Pulitzer.
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
A superb look at the immense challenges posed in a family when a child is diagnosed with autism, in this case a particularly heartbreaking type of regressive autism that does not appear until a child's second year, stealing the communication and social skills he or she has already mastered and blindsiding his parents. (As an occupational therapist, I have more than once had a parent show me a video of her child at a first or second birthday party, easily demonstrating skills that we have spent m ...more
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
My advice for reading this book is that you have to read it as Owen's (the son) story. It is so hard to get wrapped up in the narrator's perspective as an adult dealing with the struggles of his child, instead of celebrating the joy of his life. Owen sounds like one amazing person.
At the end of the book, there was so much name dropping, figure naming, and just general complaining it was sucking the joy out of the book and the accomplishment in Owen's life. Well it was certainly sucking the joy o
Aug 16, 2014 rated it liked it
At three years old, Owen Suskind was a happy talkative toddler. Then, seemingly overnight, he began to regress in multiple ways: he stopped talking, seemed to no longer understand language, began to lose motor skills, spent his time whirling & crying. Eventually, his terrified parents learned that he had autism. They were determined to help him any way they could. This is the story of the next 20 years, as they tried therapy after therapy, school after school.

Owen was captivated by Disney animat
Peter Wright
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever experienced. I was literally taken to tears several times while listening to the audio book. It doesn't take long before you're loving this family and their son Owen. Ron and Cornelia don't just give up on their son, they work to figure out how to reach him. His brother, Walter, doesn't just flee from an embarrassing brother, he learns from him. And Owen might just be one of the most brilliant people you'll ever meet. His insights into Disney m ...more
Doug Garnett
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was quite a pleasant surprise. We have a son who is on the autism spectrum. We think he's more verbal and expressive than Suskind's son. But a bit hard to tell from the book.

Fundamentally, really great to listen to the experience of someone who is a bit further ahead on the path with his son. A lot of very important lessons.

And very confirming that his experience was all around "there's a lot going on in there how do we discover it?". Far too much child rearing seems to be trying to "i
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book captivating and appreciated the insight into the life of and interactions with a person with autism, from onset to adulthood. The biggest problem I had reading it was constantly being aware of the privilege in this family. This story could only be told by people with immense wealth and influence, which is certainly not the typical experience.
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Just wow! That ending really got to me. As I was reading it I was moved and fascinated the process Owen, a boy on the autistic spectrum, used to grow so he could become all that he wanted to be. However, the very last story had me punching my fist in the air saying "go get 'em tiger!" with tears in my eyes. What a great kid/young adult who is so determined to beat all odds and has already shattered the limited expectations others placed on him. Owen's story is not over yet and I hope to con ...more
May 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Well written story that captures how a family connected with their autistic son by linking life lesson to his love for Disney stories and characters. I liked that Owen's story builds as his life unfolds and shows a complex understanding of events that he couldnt always vocalize, and that the book ends with Owen reading the story he developed.
While the story had a lot of great optimistic messages... I would be lieing if I did mention that their description of the sudden onset of symptoms when Ow
Em Ranney
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As someone who dreams of helping kids on the spectrum and is also a major Disney fan-this book was AMAZING. It truly made me giggle and cry, but also put me in the shoes of the family members of an autistic child. So good, I can’t wait to use what I learned in this novel in my future speech language pathology practice.
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookshelf
So good & real. And bonus, I learned a lot about Disney (got to love the restrictive interests in autism). Anyone who wants to learn more about autism should read this book or watch the movie or both!
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: disney
Great, except for the parts where Suskind relates Owen's struggle to whatever he's currently doing professionally. Those parts are boring and unnecessary. ...more
Sarah Francis
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In-depth telling of a family navigating autism together. Captivating and compelling. Best part of the audio version was Owen himself narrating his own original story at the end!
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2018
This book touched me, changed me, made me a better person. It will open your eyes, heart, and mind and fill you with hope and love. Just make sure you have tissues handy.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How a family rallies around their boy Owen who loses his speech as a toddler is such an uplifting story. They discover that the way "in" to Owen is through Disney movies. They begin to recite lines from Disney movies, dress up as Disney characters, and relate to Owen about his feelings (and dealing with life) through examining Disney films. This is a very moving story. There are everyday miracles and there is a place for everyone. We need to respect imaginations and seek answers. We need to work ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I rated it based on my heart. Yes, it's a well-crafted story with unique insight. I read it as a mother and as an educator.
When I take my heart out of it, I think that it could have been a bit shorter and been just as effective.
Turnoffs? Whenever bits of the author's political leanings crept in.
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a father to an autistic child (4 years old at the time of this review, she also has a diagnosis of CP) this book just wrecked me at my deepest levels. But ever since I first read the New York Times article summarizing this story (something I do not recommend you do if you are prone to cry and are at your place of work), I knew that this book would be this kind of story.

Suskind's focus is on how his autistic son, Owen, used Disney cartoons as a method to teach himself to talk and eventually so
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this because I enjoyed the documentary with the same title. The story was inspiring, but the awkward writing made the book hard to get through.

The author's son, Owen, was "normal" until age three when autism struck. He lost his speech and most communication skills and withdrew into his own little world. The only activity he seemed to enjoy was watching Disney cartoons again and again, so the whole family (parents and Owen's older brother) would watch with him to spend time together.

May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ron Suskind's lovely story of his son Owen's evolution from a child without language to a young man in the midst of self discovery is beautifully written, a genuine tribute to his family. Suskind can clearly write and his wife Cornelia deserves all kinds of accolades, from Mother of the Year to co-author. As most reviews will tell you, Owen, a boy with autism, finds his inner voice with the assistance of sidekicks from animated Disney moves.

Although the writing and storytelling are excellent (i
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Ron Suskind is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and best-selling author. He was the senior national affairs writer for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000 and has published several books: A Hope in the Unseen, The Price of Loyalty, The One Percent Doctrine, The Way of the World, Confidence Men, and Life, Animated. He won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his series ...more

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“Denial and hope, of course, are cousins. Bring them together, you’ve got illusion.” 0 likes
“Two hours a day for two days per week. Four hours. At $7.25 an hour, that gave him a gross income of $29 a week. He is also now a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers International, the union that represents food workers, retail clerks, and farm workers. His monthly dues for the UFCW are $25, all taken out of his first week’s check. That makes Owen arguably the most selfless labor activist in America, with 86 percent of his pay going to support his union.” 0 likes
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