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Beautiful Eyes: A Father Transformed [NOOK Book]


Through parenting a child with a disability, a father discovers patience, acceptance, and unconditional love.

In 1987, Paul Austin and his wife Sally were newlyweds, excited about their future together and happily anticipating the birth of their first child. He was a medical student and she was a nurse.

Everything changed the moment the doctor rushed their infant daughter from the room just after her birth, ...

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Beautiful Eyes: A Father Transformed

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Through parenting a child with a disability, a father discovers patience, acceptance, and unconditional love.

In 1987, Paul Austin and his wife Sally were newlyweds, excited about their future together and happily anticipating the birth of their first child. He was a medical student and she was a nurse.

Everything changed the moment the doctor rushed their infant daughter from the room just after her birth, knowing instantly that something was wrong. Sarah had almond-shaped eyes, a single crease across her palm instead of three, and low-set ears—all of which suggested that the baby had Down syndrome.

Beginning on the day Sarah is born and ending when she is a young adult living in a group home, Beautiful Eyes is the story of a father's journey toward acceptance of a child who is different. In a voice that is unflinchingly honest and unerringly compassionate, Austin chronicles his life with his daughter: watching her learn to walk and talk and form her own opinions, making decisions about her future, and navigating cultural assumptions and prejudices—all the while confronting, with poignancy and moving candor, his own limitations as her father.

It is Sarah herself, who, in her own coming of age and her own reconciling with her difference, teaches her father to understand her. Time and again, she surprises him: performing Lady Gaga’s "Poker Face" at a talent show; explaining how the word "retarded" is hurtful; reacting to the events of her life with a mixture of love, pain, and humor; and insisting on her own humanity in a world that questions it. As Sarah begins to blossom into herself, her father learns to look past his daughter’s disability and see her as the spirited, warmhearted, and uniquely wise person she is.

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Editorial Reviews

Dana Sachs
“A sensitive account of a family’s experience with Down syndrome…Paul Austin gives us a portrait of a spectacular young woman, his daughter Sarah, who is wise, bright, determined, often hilarious, occasionally sad, and always compelling. As we follow Sarah's story, the label 'Down syndrome' begins to disappear, replaced instead by an image of a complicated and unforgettable human being.”
Ann Hood
“In this beautiful, unflinching memoir, Paul Austin uses science, history, and a father's love and fear to trace his emotional journey with his daughter Sarah. Eventually, she becomes less his daughter with Down syndrome and simply his daughter. And every step of the way you will root for Austin, for Sarah, for everyone who has had to learn how to accept the path they are on. I simply love this book!”
Virginia Holman
“A riveting book: honest,fierce, and complex…A beautifully crafted, complex investigation into what it means to be fully human and fully loved, both as a parent and as a child. Everyone should read this book.”
Judy Goldman
“An intimate, richly layered story about the things that happen to us when we're not ready for them, about accepting life as it is, about learning from the ones we're supposed to be teaching. If you have a child with Down syndrome, of course, you should read this book. If you don't have a child with Down syndrome, you should read it, too. The impact is that strong.”
Peggy Payne
“Beautiful Eyes is honest, sensitive, exquisitely observed. A memoir not just for the immediate family of a child with Down syndrome, but for the whole human family.”
People Magazine
“Raising a child with Down syndrome, the author had plenty of fears and preconceptions. But from babyhood to adult-hood, Sarah challenged him to accept her not as a dire diagnosis but as a beloved, inspiring daughter. This isn't a book only for those dealing with disability; it's a ferocious, illuminating look at the stunning surprise of human connection.”
Kirkus Reviews
An emergency room doctor and essayist tells the moving story of how he came to terms with being the father of a child with Down syndrome. When doctors first told Austin (Something for the Pain: One Doctor's Account of Life and Death in the ER, 2008) and his wife, Sally, that their newborn daughter Sarah had trisomy 21, the couple went into shock. Neither could fully acknowledge that they had created a life that was anything less than perfect. Bonding with the child proved difficult at first, not because Sarah was a difficult baby but because the couple could not see themselves—or traits from their families—in her. They only saw the "simian crease" on Sarah's palms that marked her as "abnormal." The author and his wife also found they had to deal with the prejudices of others—e.g., the senior resident at the hospital where Austin trained who suggested that a Down syndrome child would be functional enough to "make a good pet." Seeking to understand Sarah's otherness, Austin explored the history of Down syndrome, the philosophical writings of Locke and Montaigne, and the art of the 15th-century Flemish masters. He discovered that the negative feelings he and others had toward his daughter were as much historical as they were a product of a society that scorned difference. As Sarah grew up, so did Austin. He began to see his child as a self-aware being who struggled with her limitations rather than a set of chromosomes gone awry. Sarah made the most of her abilities in events like the Special Olympics and gracefully accepted her fate to live as a member of a group home. This tender, bright and flawed child showed how being different enhanced her humanity rather than detracted from it. A poignant and candid father's memoir.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393245837
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/27/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 38,248
  • File size: 417 KB

Meet the Author

Paul Austin
Paul Austin, an emergency-room doctor, is the author of a previous memoir, Something for the Pain. His essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, the Southeast Review, and the Gettysburg Review. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
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