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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,166 Ratings  ·  303 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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Nicole
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
Audra
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
...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
...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
Teresa
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 Owe
...more
Grace
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
Claire
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
...more
Jessica Lam
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
...more
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
Sue
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
Mom
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 an
...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
...more
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
...more
Brynn
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.
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
Elizabeth
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.
Star
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.
James
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
...more
Jess
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
...more
Sarah
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
...more
Liesl
Absolutely incredible. I was already familiar with Owen's story from seeing the documentary, which compelled me to seek out the source material and learn more about this inspiring individual and his challenging, unique journey through early life. The Suskinds have certainly grappled with many obstacles in their search to find the best ways to reach Owen following his autism diagnosis, but it seems that they learned many valuable lessons through their struggles and as a result became a strong fam ...more
Lis
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A lovely book and amazing story about a family's struggle to help their autistic son Owen learn to cope with the world.

It's hard to know how much the "authorial shaping" of the story (by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author and father, Ron Suskind) has prettied up the picture -- but it seems they were indeed able to reach their son through his love of Disney movies, and thus assist him in learning to decode language and thus to speak and express himself.

Mind you, he also had many many other types of as
...more
Debby Allen
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Suskind acknowledges Greg Jackson who 'brilliantly edited the first third of the book, and helped in structuring the rest." Really needed him to do the whole book.

The first part moved right along, interesting, decently written. Then it bogs down. The writing gets sloppy, wandering and more than a bit maudlin. Grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes (of which there are /many/, this guy is a journalist?) aside, everyone is so good, so willing, it's unbelievable.

Unbroken v Proof of Heaven. Gott
...more
Melanie
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Life, Animated was an excellent read. It's the story of the Suskind family, more particularly, their son, Owen. He started out as a regular little kid, but when he was three or so, he became autistic. The parents were frantic--can you imagine?--but over time, they came to realize that their son was not really "gone."Owen loved Disney movies and watched them over and over again. Through the repeated diaologue--and by reading the credits at the end--Owen began to speak again and to read. There's n ...more
Elizabeth
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book: so incredibly touching and powerful on so many levels. As someone who isn't a big non-fiction reader, I found Suskind a strong writer and storyteller - particularly when it comes to describing those moments / situations that you've experienced, but can't quite describe / explain / convey in a way that does justice to how it actually makes you feel (I think this is particularly hard to do when those situations include feelings of helplessness, worry, etc.). A real emotional wringer of ...more
Beth Lind
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: beth-s-favorites
One of the best books I've read this year. Actually, one of the best books I've read ever.

A heartwarming and insightful true story of a family who found a way to reach and interact with their son who has autism. The last chapter, written by Owen, was my favorite. In his world of Disney and sidekicks, he has such profound wisdom of the things that matter most in the world.

I'm in awe!
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.
Rachel Vore
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully crafted

This is a beautifully crafted story about a boy with Autism, his family and the power of a special interest- Disney.
Christine Nault
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It took me a long time to read because it hit close to home. I would have to take breaks from reading it. Honestly, I think every time I read it I cried!
D.j. Lang
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before writing down my review, I glanced over some of the other reviews. Those who gave it low stars mention the privilege of the family. Yes, I thought of that as well when I read, but I thought more along the lines of concern for those who do not have the financial means to do all that the Suskinds were able to do. Nonetheless, does that mean they should not tell their story? Whether one has an abundance of money or not, there are ideas and actions to be gleaned from their story.

The other cri
...more
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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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