A year has passed since we last surveyed some of the newest books on topics related to disabilities. As the weather warms, and many of us look forward to reading by the pool, on the porch, or while on summer vacations, we’ve compiled a list of five notable books published or released in paperback or E-book within the past year.
“Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter” by Kate Clifford Larson
Being a Kennedy has always meant being in the public eye. Yet, due to the intellectual and physical disabilities she sustained during her birth, Rosemary Kennedy, the third child of Joe and Rose Kennedy, was kept out of the limelight. In this 2015 biography, now available in paperback, Kate Clifford Larson explores Rosemary’s tragic life.
Despite her vivacious personality and beauty, Rosemary’s parents were ashamed of her limitations and feared that the family’s image and social status would be diminished, if those outside the Kennedy clan knew about Rosemary’s disabilities. Thus, they pushed Rosemary beyond her capabilities, sent her away to schools and tried all sorts of questionable therapies including a traumatic and debilitating lobotomy in her 20s, in ill-fated attempts to “cure” her. In addition to providing a window into this fascinating family and its most vulnerable member, “Rosemary” is a sad and chilling reminder of the Eugenics Movement of the early 20th century which, “aimed at improving the genetic composition of the human race,” according to Genetics Generation. “Historically, eugenicists advocated selective breeding to achieve these goals.” Fortunately, the movement was discredited in the U.S. after it became closely associated with Nazism. Having seen Rosemary suffer, her siblings and other Kennedy family members were influenced to promote the interests of people with disabilities through organizations such as the Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s Special Olympics, Anthony Shriver’s Best Buddies as well as legislation that benefited people with disabilities enacted by President John F. Kennedy.
“Pointing Is Rude: One Father’s Story of Autism, Adoption, and Acceptance” by Digger O’Brien
Prior to writing this heart-felt memoir, Digger O’Brien was known as an Emmy Award-winning television producer. Now, the book he has written about his family’s experience coming to terms with his son’s autism diagnosis, and the trials and tribulations that have come along with it, has re-introduced him as a talented author and disabilities advocate. O’Brien’s dry wit, and willingness to tell his story honestly, without sugar-coating the hard times, make this book deeply relatable as well as inspiring.
“The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults” by Debra Moore Ph.D. and Temple Grandin. Ph.D.
This highly reviewed book co-written by autism expert Debra Moore and Temple Grandin, the renowned professor of animal science, autism advocate and a person with autism, helps parents and professionals to find the right balance between pushing their young adult children and clients too hard and pushing them hard enough to achieve their potential. Including research, case studies and easy-to-implement strategies, “The Loving Push” endeavors to give young adults on the spectrum the best chance for a successful and relatively independent future.
Cycle of Hope: A Journey from Paralysis to Possibility” by Tricia Downing
This memoir by competitive cyclist and first-time author Tricia Downing chronicles her journey back from a 2000 accident that left her a paralyzed from the chest down. This emotionally honest and tremendously inspiring story chronicles Downing’s journey from the devastating accident through her arduous rehabilitation to her gradual acceptance of her new life and identity as a woman with a disability and her return to athletics as a competitive wheelchair racer. “Cycle of Hope” will encourage those with and without disabilities to accept their challenges and pursue their dreams.
Notes on Blindness: A Journey Through the Dark by John M. Hull
The late John Hull’s memoir about his experiences coping with the gradual loss of his eye-sight is praised by authors and disabilities scholars from the late Oliver Sacks to author and psychiatrist Andrew Solomon. Adapted from audiotaped diaries Hull began to record about three years after becoming totally blind, this beautifully written memoir explores his path from loss and depression to his eventual acceptance of his disability and his embrace of a different, yet no less fulfilling way of life.