Twin: A Memoir

Twin: A Memoir

2.6 30
by Allen Shawn
     
 

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A heartbreaking yet deeply hopeful memoir about life as a twin in the face of autism.

When Allen Shawn and his twin sister, Mary, were two, Mary began exhibiting signs of what would be diagnosed many years later as autism. Understanding Mary and making her life a happy one appeared to be impossible for the Shawns. At the age of eight, with almost no…  See more details below

Overview

A heartbreaking yet deeply hopeful memoir about life as a twin in the face of autism.

When Allen Shawn and his twin sister, Mary, were two, Mary began exhibiting signs of what would be diagnosed many years later as autism. Understanding Mary and making her life a happy one appeared to be impossible for the Shawns. At the age of eight, with almost no warning, her parents sent Mary to a residential treatment center. She never lived at home again.

Fifty years later, as he probed the sources of his anxieties in Wish I Could Be There, Shawn realized that his fate was inextricably linked to his sister's, and that their natures were far from being different.

Twin highlights the difficulties American families coping with autism faced in the 1950s. Shawn also examines the secrets and family dramas as his father, William, became editor of The New Yorker. Twin reconstructs a parallel narrative for the two siblings, who experienced such divergent fates yet shared talents and proclivities. Wrenching, honest, understated, and poetic, Twin is at heart about the mystery of being inextricably bonded to someone who can never be truly understood.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his previous book Wish I Could Be There, Shawn explored his agoraphobia and claustrophobia. Here, Shawn, whose father is the former New Yorker editor William Shawn and his brother the playwright/actor Wallace Shawn, focuses on his twin sister, Mary, who early on is diagnosed with both mental retardation and autism, and institutionalized by the time she is eight. Shawn knows he cannot really penetrate Mary's world, but writes movingly of the lifelong effects of Mary's absence from his. Mary's "sudden, virtually noiseless departure" results in a kind of "survivor guilt," so that "for , to grow up and flourish would mean leaving Mary irrevocably behind." He speculates that his father's inability to face the challenge of caring for her may have been a significant reason for his 37-year affair with colleague Lillian Ross. In addition to his reflections on his own emotional growth and creative evolution, Shawn steps out of the memoir genre to contribute a long informational chapter on how the thinking about autism has changed since it was first identified by Dr. Leo Kanner as a separate disorder from schizophrenia in the 1940s. Whether he's remembering Mary, the deaths of his parents, or his studies with Nadia Boulanger and other great musicians, Shawn writes poetically with honesty and empathy. (Jan.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101475225
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/30/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,337,464
File size:
214 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Allen Shawn is the author of the critically acclaimed Wish I Could Be There and Arnold Schoenberg's Journey. He is a composer and pianist, and has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Magazine and other publications. He lives in Vermont and is on the faculty of Bennington College.

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Twin 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Erendira Resendez More than 1 year ago
It was difficult to understand if the book was about the guy or the sister. It talks mostly about his life and vaguely mentions the sister's autism.
HarrietteWilson More than 1 year ago
Composer and writer Allen Shawn shares his experience of separation from his twin. As a young girl, Mary Shawn was diagnosed with cognitive and psychological disabilities. She has spent her life in institutional settings. Meanwhile, Allen Shawn has had success as a composer, musician, and writer (his last book, WISH I COULD BE THERE, looks at his own phobias and psychological issues), while their brother Wallace has triumphed as a playwright and actor. But the separation between Mary and her brothers left a painful gap in the family, one which Allen Shawn traces here with delicacy and respect. His language, too, is beautiful and musical, and captures the rhythm of Mary's strong personality and her unique choice of words.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not finish reading it, read more than I cared to thinking it would get better, it didn't.
Zbearman More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure who this book is really about? Is this story about himself or his sister who has Autism? He is doing nothing but rambling on and on. Boring..I didn't finish this book. I ended up skippng parts of the story, I got so bored.
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Jessie Hanus More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read a sample to see if it was worth purchasing, but it was too short! All I could gather was a story about a hamster.....lame! Perhaps adding a few more pages to get the reader interested!?
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