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The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  625 ratings  ·  155 reviews
The Anti-Romantic Child is remarkable. This haunting and lyrical memoir will be an invaluable and heartening guide to all who find themselves in similar situations and indeed anyone confronting an unforeseen challenge.”—Marie Brenner, writer for Vanity Fair and author of Apples and Oranges
With an emotionally resonant combination of memoir and literature, Wordsworth schol
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Harper
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Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jennifer Hudak
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 di
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
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
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
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Ted Morgan
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this elegant and nuanced memoir that transcends memoir and is fine literature. It is the one essential work from the past two years on my list of works to share and recommend.

Life does not always follow our fantasies but properly apperceived remains open to joy, mystery, and discovery.

Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Kelly Sapp
Jul 19, 2012 rated it liked it
The literature quotes are fabulous in this story, and the author's love of literature, and the journey of discovering not only that her son has some "spectrumy traits," but that her husband did, too.

This story saddened me, because it seems to me, her husband (now, ex) went through PTSD and numbed upon learning about their son's diagnosis, while the author, of course, reacted to her PTSD with a hyper-vigilance. Their marriage did not survive, and that, to me, is the greatest tragedy of this story
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
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
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
This woman is in denial that her child is autistic! Holy Wordsworth overkill just tell the story.
Lila Weaver
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, nonfiction
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.
Kim Wombles
May 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Anita W
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
THE ANTI-ROMANTIC CHILD – A Memoir of Unexpected Joy written by Dr. Priscilla A. Gilman
I am greatly humbled by this book -- but also inspired and filled with hope. This book exposes raw nerves as we read about the real life of Dr. Priscilla A. Gilman and her son, Benjamin. The occasional poetry interspersed throughout the book beautifully dramatizes and illustrates the story. The book is about a parent’s worst fears – that their child may be born less than physically and mentally perfect by soc
Nicole Arocho
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
‘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
Alfred Haplo
This is not a parenting-help book, nor a call for empathy. This is not even a book about the author’s special needs son, who precipitated the notion of the anti-romantic child. This is first and foremost, a memoir of the author, Priscilla Gilman, who shared her personal journey of finding unexpected joy. Through Ms. Gilman’s unique perspective of prose and poetry, we learn what it was like for her to expect an ordinary developing child but found the extraordinary, to lose a college sweetheart bu ...more
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Original review here

I remember being pregnant with Bria, my first child, and having all kinds of notions about how it was going to be to have my own baby. I wondered what she would be like: I hoped she would have my love of reading and learning and her father's musical abilities. I wanted her to be brilliant, of course, and kind and sweet and wonderful and perfect.

Of course she is all of those things--just not quite how I had imagined it. She loves to read and learn all right, but it surprises m
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This memoir can be meaningful for parents navigating the world of special needs / "spectrum" children. I've read the book twice, and admire it in many ways mentioned by other reviewers.

Yet I do have some concerns.

First and foremost, I think much too much is expected of the young Benj. Sure, he does have Asperger-y behavior and physical problems, yet the mother seems to expect things of him that are challenging for ordinary kids. For example, at his 4th birthday party, "he didn't take the gifts
Sherri Byrand
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Christine Bourgeois
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It was a Thursday and I was heading to the midtown branch of the New York Public Library. A few weeks earlier, an excerpt in the Library’s monthly publication advertised Priscilla Gilman’s book reading. The words “children” and “unexpected joy” had caught my attention. That evening the author’s talk moved something deep inside me. I bought a copy of her book and spent the next few days consumed by it.

Priscilla Gilman, a Wordsworth scholar and a young mother, is just starting her career as an En
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
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer Rayment
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Good Stuff

Beautifully writes about raising a child that has special needs and so wonderfully explains the need to let go of the dream of your child and love the child you have.
Very painfully honest and real, she doesn't hide from her emotions and doesn't put blame on anyone
Her relationship with her ex-husband is one that I truly believe benefits her children -- now if more divorces couples would follow her path
She's a strong women who wouldn't take no for an answer and wants the best for he
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could have given this book more than five stars, I would have! It was amazing. Priscilla Gilman is very much a "romantic." She was a professor of English lit at Yale and Vassar before choosing to abandon the world of academia. Can't say as I blame her much. I always liked reading literature just to read it; to devour it; to enjoy it, not to dissect it into its smallest parts, to the point that it is unrecognizable. Her favorite author is William Wordsworth. She quotes his poems extensively ...more
Nov 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
Skimmed a few pages once. Felt uncomfortable. Told myself to be a trouper, skimmed more pages. Nope, still put off by the writing, couldn't actually read it.

Another reviewer referred to this book as the Dr. Gilman releasing her PTSD, and I think that's probably a good way to describe it. And I understand -- it wouldn't surprise us if someone said our kid has a touch of hyperlexia too, though he certainly doesn't have anything quite the degree of Dr. Gilman's son, in both good and bad.) It certa
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MOTHERS Book Bag: Book Review: The Anti-Romantic Child 1 13 Mar 01, 2012 05:02PM  

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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

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31 likes · 6 comments
“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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