Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption: On the Meaning of Family and the Politics of Neurological Difference

Overview

Watch an interview with DJ on CNN

Listen to Ralph Savarese's interview on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show"

Visit the book's website: www.reasonable-people.com

"Why would someone adopt a badly abused, nonspeaking, six-year-old from foster care?" So the author was asked at the outset of his adoption-as-a-first-resort adventure. Part love story, part political manifesto about "living with conviction in a cynical time," the memoir traces the development...

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Overview

Watch an interview with DJ on CNN

Listen to Ralph Savarese's interview on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show"

Visit the book's website: www.reasonable-people.com

"Why would someone adopt a badly abused, nonspeaking, six-year-old from foster care?" So the author was asked at the outset of his adoption-as-a-first-resort adventure. Part love story, part political manifesto about "living with conviction in a cynical time," the memoir traces the development of DJ, a boy written off as profoundly retarded and now, six years later, earning all "A's" at a regular school. Neither a typical saga of autism nor simply a challenge to expert opinion, Reasonable People illuminates the belated emergence of a self in language. And it does so using DJ's own words, expressed through the once discredited but now resurgent technique of facilitated communication. In this emotional page-turner, DJ reconnects with the sister from whom he was separated, begins to type independently, and explores his experience of disability, poverty, abandonment, and sexual abuse. "Try to remember my life," he says on his talking computer, and remember he does in the most extraordinarily perceptive and lyrical way.

Asking difficult questions about the nature of family, the demise of social obligation, and the meaning of neurological difference, Savarese argues for a reasonable commitment to human possibility and caring.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly

Savarese writes with passion and humor, careful to include extensive excerpts from DJ's typing, so readers get a sense of his remarkable growth.

Library Journal

...readers will find the elements documenting the foster care system worthwhile.

The Autism Acceptance Project Newsletter

This is... a story about what life is all about: trial, error, perseverance, and faith in people. Faith in love. Ralph, Emily and DJ give us that, and much more.

Booklist

Savarese’s careful melding of memoir and passionate advocacy for the disabled informs and inspires.

GQ

That [Reasonable People] manages to avoid both polemic and cliché is reason enough to applaud.

Newsweek

By the end of Savarese's moving memoir, DJ is in sixth grade and getting all "A's" at regular school... "They think well-respected, tested-as-normal kids are the OK-to-teach ones," writes DJ [in the book's final chapter]. "They forget these lost kids." Perhaps this book will help others remember they are more than worth the effort

Body+Soul

A moving memoir, it calls for "living with conviction in a cynical time."

Publishers Weekly

Savarese, a writer and professor at Grinnell College, writes a moving account of his family's adoption of DJ, an abused, autistic youngster. Throughout, he describes the process of helping DJ communicate with the world and discusses larger issues of the rights of people with neurological differences. Savarese's wife, an autism professional, first encountered DJ when he was only two and a half; by the time they could adopt him, three years later, he'd lived in several homes and been badly abused in foster care. Because he didn't speak, people were unaware of what he'd suffered; some doubted he even could suffer, believing the myth that the autistic have no sense of self or others. As the Savareses worked with their son, teaching him to sign and to use "facilitated communication" with a keyboard, they learned more about his very deep thoughts and feelings. As they fought to include him in mainstream classrooms, they also struggled with his emerging demons: his memories of abuse, his pain from parental abandonment. Savarese writes with passion and humor, careful to include extensive excerpts from DJ's typing, so readers get a sense of his remarkable growth. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

A controversial therapy for autism, facilitated communication (FC) first gained attention in the early 1990s but was discredited because of the indeterminable influence of the facilitator. It most commonly involves guiding the hands of an autistic person over a keyboard to help him/her type out messages. The father of a severely autistic teenage son, Savarese (literature, Grinnell Coll.) is a proponent of FC and offers a memoir both of his son's background and of his experience with the therapy. The best part of the book vividly chronicles the former--before being adopted, D.J. was abandoned by his birth parents and suffered abuse in the foster care system. Savarese then explores D.J.'s development using FC and includes phrases and passages he typed (the potential interference of the facilitator is not easy to ignore when we see, e.g., D.J. referring to his visit to Rome as a "trip of a lifetime"). While Savarese shows the positive aspects of FC, he fails to demonstrate in-depth how that method could be used by parents and educators. Nevertheless, readers will find the elements documenting the foster care system worthwhile. Recommended for academic libraries with comprehensive disability collections.
—Corey Seeman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590511299
  • Publisher: Other Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 5/22/2007
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 552,214
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Ralph James Savarese

Poet, essayist, translator, and scholar, Ralph James Savarese teaches American literature and creative writing at Grinnell College. He lives in Grinnell, Iowa.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Some Get Eaten     xi
Part I
Severe and Profound     3
More     31
Have You Tried In Vitro? or What's in a Name?     57
He's So Fine     88
Guidance     117
Read the Book     149
Poking     178
Have You Missed Living with Me?     216
Part II
Try to Remember My Life     241
Buttoned-up Shirts     266
Throw Dad Away     289
Charlie Needs Our Help     315
The Sad Hurt Great Brother     343
Grief Isn't Easy     373
Reasonable People     401
It's My Story!     432
Notes     443
Acknowledgments     461
About the Author     463
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