For My Ears: BEST BOY by Eli Gottlieb

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So — as you know if you read me regularly, I listen to audiobooks in the car on my hour plus commute each day. I get them from Audible. Audible often has sales and sends me emails of suggestions, so I chose this one rather randomly. It is the story of Todd Aaron, a middle aged man with autism who has spent most of his life in an assisted living facility for individuals with special needs.

Todd’s story centers around the events that occur that make him try to run away and get back to his former home. He has a new roommate- a brain injured young man who makes Todd uncomfortable, a new friend – a girl that is both funny and terrifying and to me seems psychotic, a beloved aide, and a new caretaker who scares Todd and reminds him of his abusive father. The story is told in Todd’s unique voice and provides a large amount of back story woven in.

I can hardly express how much I loved this book. It is so touching and sensitive, and unforgettable, it made me cry. Bronson Pinchot is the narrator and he is phenomenal — truly! His ability to “voice” Todd appropriately lends a whole new layer to the reading of the text. I rarely say this, but if you have the option, LISTEN to this book as opposed to reading it. You will NOT be disappointed. It runs in just under 7 1/2 hours.

Don’t miss this one!

Spotlight on NEUROTRIBES by Steve Silberman

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When I saw that Net Galley was offering this book, I signed up for it right away.

Here’s the description from Net Galley:

Description

A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.

What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. WIRED reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.

Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.

Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome, whose “little professors” were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for fifty years; and casts light on the growing movement of “neurodiversity” activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences.

**This was a very readable and highly interesting book, covering the “history” of autism and focusing on real life stories. The subtitle of this book is “The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” – which is apt as it works to have reader see autism and and Asperger’s as a type of diversity as opposed to being disorders or disabilities. I heartily concur with this — I’ve often found myself saying “we’re all somewhere on a continuum” (and that was well before ‘being on the continuum’ was a “thing”, if you know what I mean). For those who aren’t familiar with the psychological/historical background of autism, it is very thorough and easy to read. This is the type of book that anyone from a lay person, to a parent/family member of an autistic individual, to a college student can read. I have to say, though, that if you are a psychologist or highly read in the field, you might not find anything new.
It’s also interesting to me that the latest manual for diagnosing (DSM-V) has removed the category of Asperger’s. It has combined several different “types” of autism under the umbrella term “ASD (autism spectrum disorder)”. You can read more about that here at http://www.dsm5.org
Highly recommended read for those who want to understand more about autism and its history.
Thank you, Net Galley, for my e-copy!

Kids’ Review: AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS and AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES by Gennifer Choldenko

A while ago, someone asked me if I had read the “Al Capone” series for kids. I hadn’t and she said I should check them out as they were good. A few weeks ago we were at the library doing homework and my daughter saw “Al Capone Does My Shirts”. We took it out and I ended up stealing it from her. I then read the next book in the series, “Al Capone Shines my Shoes”, and I plan to read the third, “Al Capone Does My Homework”.

In these books, it is the mid-1930’s, and Matthew “Moose” Flanagan and his family live on the island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay where the notorious gangster Al Capone is doing his time. Moose’s dad works as an electrician on the island. Moose befriends the other children whose fathers work as jailers, wardens, plumbers, and the like. Moose has an older sister, Natalie, who has some developmental delays and differences (similar to autism). Part of this book is Moose’s adventures with the other kids, the scrapes they get into, the prisoners they try to interact with, and their every day life at home and school. The other part of the novel is the relationships between Moose and the others, and especially with his sister. The character of Natalie and her interactions with Moose and their parents are so sensitively and touchingly portrayed that at one point they brought tears to my eyes. (Gennifer Choldenko writes in the author’s notes that she had a sister with developmental differences and Natalie is in part based on her).

I just loved these books! I think middle grade and middle school readers would enjoy them, both boys and girls. They are fun and exciting, yet realistic and sensitive. The characters are so true to life, I think, because they are basically portrayed with their flaws and weaknesses showing. I have recommended them for our school library.