Seeing Ezra: A Mother's Story of Autism, Unconditional Love, and the Meaning of Normal

Seeing Ezra: A Mother's Story of Autism, Unconditional Love, and the Meaning of Normal

by Kerry Cohen
     
 

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Seeing Ezra is the soulful, beautifully written memoir of a mother’s fierce love for her autistic son, and a poignant examination of what it means to be “normal.” When Kerry Cohen’s son Ezra turns one, a babysitter suggests he may be “different,” setting her family on a path in which autism dominates their world. As he

Overview

Seeing Ezra is the soulful, beautifully written memoir of a mother’s fierce love for her autistic son, and a poignant examination of what it means to be “normal.” When Kerry Cohen’s son Ezra turns one, a babysitter suggests he may be “different,” setting her family on a path in which autism dominates their world. As he becomes a toddler and they navigate the often rigid and prescriptive world of therapy, Cohen is unsettled by the evaluations they undergo: At home, Ezra is playfully expressive, sharing profound, touching moments of connection and intimacy with his mother and other family members, but in therapy he is pathologized, prodded to behave in ways that undermine his unique expression of autism.

It soon becomes clear that more is at stake than just Ezra’s well-being; Cohen and her marriage are suffering as well. Ezra’s differentness, and the strain of pursuing varied therapies, takes a toll on the family—Cohen’s husband grows depressed and she pursues an affair—all as she tries to help others recognize and embrace Ezra’s uniqueness rather than force him to behave outside his comfort level. It isn’t until they abandon the expected, prescriptive notions about love, marriage, and individuality that they are able to come back together as two parents who fiercely love their little boy.

Powerful and eye-opening, Seeing Ezra is an inspirational chronicle of a mother’s struggle to protect her son from a system that seeks to compartmentalize and “fix” him, and of her journey toward accepting and valuing him for who he is—just as he is.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bravo to Cohen for giving us such a deep, rich tale of motherhood."
— Vicki Forman, author of This Lovely Life

"What is the experience of mothering an autistic child? And what is the experience of negotiating the world's reaction to that autism? This is a book to think with, a brave meditation on love and acceptance.Not just for mothers—this is a beautiful story about being human."
— Ariel Gore, founding editor of Hip Mama, and author of Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness

"Cohen writes an intense and penetrating story. Her honesty is gripping and heartbreaking, her struggles are laid bare for the reader and her perseverance—on behalf of her child—is inspiring. Seeing Ezra is an important book."
— Jennifer Lauck, author of the memoirs Found and Blackbird

"Seeing Ezra is a love story and a portrait of Ezra as Ezra, with all the simplicity and complexity that entails. It is a story skillfully told by a mother who understands her son for who he is and for what he brings to the world on his own terms."
Robert Rummel-Hudson, author of Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with his Wordless Daughter

Kirkus Reviews

Cohen (Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, 2008, etc.) wants her readers to understand the process of raising an autistic child. Despite her good intentions, she has trouble adhering to her topic and including relevant details.

The author relates the many challenges unique to parenting a child with autism, but most readers will be less interested in the Cohen's mundanely unraveling marriage, her exhaustively catalogued emotional needs (which she feels freer to share with readers than with her husband) or the various kinds of "energy" other people put out that she picks up on. The book reads more like a series of confessional journal entries than a well-structured memoir. Presumably because she is a trained psychotherapist, as well as a longtime recipient of psychotherapy, Cohen's writing often assumes an irritatingly clinical tone. The author is at her best when she ponders crucial questions related to the diagnosis and treatment of her son's condition—What is autism? Should autistic children be forced to behave in more "normal" ways? What is "normal"?—but she strains readers' patience with constant diatribes directed at well-meaning therapists, doctors, teachers, babysitters, "ex" friends and strangers she believes wronged her son, as well as gratuitous descriptions of her own parents' flaws and her not-quite-an-affair with a married friend. Cohen could have written a compelling essay about her son's autism for a parenting magazine; she does not have enough cohesive, original material to sustain an entire book.

Repetitive, strained and gratingly self-righteous.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580054331
Publisher:
Avalon Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/18/2012
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 5.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Kerry Cohen grew up in northern New Jersey, right across the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan. She has two master’s degrees, one in writing from the University of Oregon, and one in counseling psychology from Pacific University.

After publishing her first memoir, Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, Cohen received thousands of messages from girls and women who felt that in telling her story, she had told their own shameful, unspoken story as well. Following that experience, her work as a counselor has primarily concerned adolescent girls and sexuality, relationship issues, and addictions. Her next book on the “loose” issue, Dirty Little Secrets: Breaking the Silence on Teenage Girls and Promiscuity, is forthcoming in September 2011.

Cohen’s writing has been featured in The New York Times’ “Modern Love” series and the Washington Post, as well as numerous anthologies, literary journals, and periodicals. She has appeared on Dr. Phil, Secret Lives of Women, The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, and the BBC, as well as in Marie Claire, the UK's Daily Mail, South African People Magazine. She currently maintains a blog for Psychology Today.

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