In 1987, Dr. Benjamin Carson gained worldwide recognition for his part in the first successful separation of Siamese twins joined at the back of the head. Carson pioneered again in a rare procedure known as a hemispherectomy, giving children without hope a second chance at life through a daring operation in which he literally removes one half of their brain. Such breakthroughs aren’t unusual for Ben Carson. He’s been beating the odds since he was a child. Raised in inner-city Detroit by a mother with a third grade education, Ben lacked motivation. He had terrible grades. And a pathological temper threatened to put him in jail. But Sonya Carson convinced her son he could make something of his life, even though everything around him said otherwise. Trust in God, a relentless belief in his own capabilities, and sheer determination catapulted Ben from failing grades to the directorship of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Gifted Hands takes you into the operating room to witness surgeries that made headlines around the world—and into the private mind of a compassionate, God-fearing physician who lives to help others.
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About the Author
Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., M.D., became the chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1984 at the age of 33, making him the youngest major division director in the hospital's history. He has written and published nine books, four of which were co-authored with Candy, his wife of 40 years. Dr. Carson was the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal. In June 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. U.S. News Media Group and Harvard's Center for Public Leadership recognized Dr. Carson as one of "America's Best Leaders" in 2008. In 2014, the Gallup Organization, in their annual survey, named Dr. Carson as one of the 10 Most Admired Men in the World.
Dr. Carson and his wife are co-founders of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. In addition, Dr. Carson is now the Honorary National Chairman of the My Faith Votes campaign and continues to work tirelessly for the cause of the American people.
Read an Excerpt
By Ben Carson Cecil Murphey
ZondervanCopyright © 2011 Sonya Carson
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Goodbye, Daddy"
And your daddy isn't going to live with us anymore."
"Why not?" I asked again, choking back the tears. I just could not accept the strange finality of my mother's words. "I love my dad!"
"He loves you too, Bennie ... but he has to go away. For good."
"But why? I don't want him to go. I want him to stay here with us."
"He's got to go —"
"Did I do something to make him want to leave us?"
"Oh, no, Bennie. Absolutely not. Your daddy loves you."
I burst into tears. "Then make him come back."
"I can't. I just can't." Her strong arms held me close, trying to comfort me, to help me stop crying. Gradually my sobs died away, and I calmed down. But as soon as she loosened her hug and let me go, my questions started again.
"Your Daddy did —" Mother paused, and, young as I was, I knew she was trying to find the right words to make me understand what I didn't want to grasp. "Bennie, your daddy did some bad things. Real bad things."
I swiped my hand across my eyes. "You can forgive him then. Don't let him go."
"It's more than just forgiving him, Bennie —"
"But I want him to stay here with Curtis and me and you."
Once again Mother tried to make me understand why Daddy was leaving, but her explanation didn't make a lot of sense to me at 8 years of age. Looking back, I don't know how much of the reason for my father's leaving sank into my understanding. Even what I grasped, I wanted to reject. My heart was broken because Mother said that my father was never coming home again. And I loved him.
Dad was affectionate. He was often away, but when he was home he'd hold me on his lap, happy to play with me whenever I wanted him to. He had great patience with me. I particularly liked to play with the veins on the back of his large hands, because they were so big. I'd push them down and watch them pop back up. "Look! They're back again!" I'd laugh, trying everything within the power of my small hands to make his veins stay down. Dad would sit quietly, letting me play as long as I wanted.
Sometimes he'd say, "Guess you're just not strong enough," and I'd push even harder. Of course nothing worked, and I'd soon lose interest and play with something else.
Even though Mother said that Daddy had done some bad things, I couldn't think of my father as "bad," because he'd always been good to my brother, Curtis, and me. Sometimes Dad brought us presents for no special reason. "Thought you'd like this," he'd say offhandedly, a twinkle in his dark eyes.
Many afternoons I'd pester my mother or watch the clock until I knew it was time for my dad to come home from work. Then I'd rush outside to wait for him. I'd watch until I saw him walking down our alley. "Daddy! Daddy!" I'd yell, running to meet him. He would scoop me into his arms and carry me into the house.
That stopped in 1959 when I was 8 years old and Daddy left home for good. To my young, hurting heart the future stretched out forever. I couldn't imagine a life without Daddy and didn't know if Curtis, my 10-year-old brother, or I would ever see him again.
* * *
I don't know how long I continued the crying and questioning the day Daddy left; I only know it was the saddest day of my life. And my questions didn't stop with my tears. For weeks I pounded my mother with every possible argument my mind could conceive, trying to find some way to get her to make Daddy come back home.
"How can we get by without Daddy?"
"Why don't you want him to stay?"
"He'll be good. I know he will. Ask Daddy. He won't do bad things again."
My pleading didn't make any difference. My parents had settled everything before they told Curtis and me.
"Mothers and fathers are supposed to stay together," I persisted. "They're both supposed to be with their little boys."
"Yes, Bennie, but sometimes it just doesn't work out right."
"I still don't see why," I said. I thought of all the things Dad did with us. For instance, on most Sundays, Dad would take Curtis and me for drives in the car. Usually we visited people, and we'd often stop by to see one family in particular. Daddy would talk with the grown-ups, while my brother and I played with the children. Only later did we learn the truth — my father had another "wife" and other children that we knew nothing about.
I don't know how my mother found out about his double life, for she never burdened Curtis and me with the problem. In fact, now that I'm an adult, my one complaint is that she went out of her way to protect us from knowing how bad things were. We were never allowed to share how deeply she hurt. But then, that was Mother's way of protecting us, thinking she was doing the right thing. And many years later I finally understood what she called his "betrayals with women and drugs."
Long before Mother knew about the other family, I sensed things weren't right between my parents. My parents didn't argue; instead, my father just walked away. He had been leaving the house more and more and staying away longer and longer. I never knew why.
Yet when Mother told me "Your daddy isn't coming back," those words broke my heart.
I didn't tell Mother, but every night when I went to bed I prayed, "Dear Lord, help Mother and Dad get back together again." In my heart I just knew God would help them make up so we could be a happy family. I didn't want them to be apart, and I couldn't imagine facing the future without my father.
But Dad never came home again.
As the days and weeks passed, I learned we could get by without him. We were poorer then, and I could tell Mother worried, although she didn't say much to Curtis or me. As I grew wiser, and certainly by the time I was 11, I realized that the three of us were actually happier than we had been with Dad in the house. We had peace. No periods of deathly silence filled the house. I no longer froze with fear or huddled in my room, wondering what was happening when Mother and Daddy didn't talk.
That's when I stopped praying for them to get back together. "It's better for them to stay split up," I said to Curtis. "Isn't it?"
"Yeah, guess so," he answered. And, like Mother, he didn't say much to me about his own feelings. But I think I knew that he too reluctantly realized that our situation was better without our father.
Trying to remember how I felt in those days after Dad left, I'm not aware of going through stages of anger and resentment. My mother says that the experience pushed Curtis and me into a lot of pain. I don't doubt that his leaving meant a terrible adjustment for both of us boys. Yet I still have no recollection beyond his initial leaving.
Maybe that's how I learned to handle my deep hurt — by forgetting.
* * *
We just don't have the money, Bennie."
In the months after Dad left, Curtis and I must have heard that statement a hundred times, and, of course, it was true. When we asked for toys or candy, as we'd done before, I soon learned to tell from the expression on Mother's face how deeply it hurt her to deny us. After a while I stopped asking for what I knew we couldn't have anyway.
In a few instances resentment flashed across my mother's face. Then she'd get very calm and explain to us boys that Dad loved us but wouldn't give her any money to support us. I vaguely recall a few times when Mother went to court, trying to get child support from him. Afterward, Dad would send money for a month or two — never the full amount — and he always had a legitimate excuse. "I can't give you all of it this time," he'd say, "but I'll catch up. I promise."
Dad never caught up. After a while Mother gave up trying to get any financial help from him.
I was aware that he wouldn't give her money, which made life harder on us. And in my childish love for a dad who had been kind and affectionate, I didn't hold it against him. But at the same time I couldn't understand how he could love us and not want to give us money for food.
One reason I didn't hold any grudges or harsh feelings toward Dad must have been that my mother seldom blamed him — at least not to us or in our hearing. I can hardly think of a time when she spoke against him.
More important than that fact, though, Mother managed to bring a sense of security to our three-member family. While I still missed Dad for a long time, I felt a sense of contentment being with just my mother and my brother because we really did have a happy family.
My mother, a young woman with hardly any education, came from a large family and had many things against her. Yet she pulled off a miracle in her own life, and helped in ours. I can still hear Mother's voice, no matter how bad things were, saying, "Bennie, we're going to be fine." Those weren't empty words either, for she believed them. And because she believed them, Curtis and I believed them too, and they provided a comforting assurance for me.
Part of Mother's strength came from a deep-seated faith in God and perhaps just as much from her innate ability to inspire Curtis and me to know she meant every word she said. We knew we weren't rich; yet no matter how bad things got for us, we didn't worry about what we'd have to eat or where we'd live.
Our growing up without a father put a heavy burden on my mother. She didn't complain — at least not to us — and she didn't feel sorry for herself. She tried to carry the whole load, and somehow I understood what she was doing. No matter how many hours she had to be away from us at work, I knew she was doing it for us. That dedication and sacrifice made a profound impression on my life.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my mother." I'm not sure I want to say it quite like that, but my mother, Sonya Carson, was the earliest, strongest, and most impacting force in my life.
It would be impossible to tell about my accomplishments without starting with my mother's influence. For me to tell my story means beginning with hers.
Chapter TwoCarrying the Load
They're not going to treat my boy that way," Mother said as she stared at the paper Curtis had given her. "No, sir, they're not going to do that to you." Curtis had had to read some of the words to her, but she understood exactly what the school counselor had done.
"What you going to do, Mother?" I asked in surprise. It had never occurred to me that anyone could change anything when school authorities made decisions.
"I'm going right over there in the morning and get this straightened out," she said. From the tone of her voice I knew she'd do it.
Curtis, two years my senior, was in junior high school when the school counselor decided to place him into the vocational-type curriculum. His once-low grades had been climbing nicely for more than a year, but he was enrolled in a predominantly White school, and Mother had no doubt that the counselor was operating from the stereotypical thinking that Blacks were incapable of college work.
Of course, I wasn't at their meeting, but I still vividly remember what Mother told us that evening. "I said to that counselor woman, 'My son Curtis is going to college. I don't want him in any vocational courses.'" Then she put her hand on my brother's head. "Curtis, you are now in the college prep courses."
That story illustrates my mother's character. She was not a person who would allow the system to dictate her life. Mother had a clear understanding of how things would be for us boys.
My mother is an attractive woman, five feet three and slim, although when we were kids I'd say she was on the plump side of medium. Today she suffers from arthritis and heart problems, but I don't think she has slowed down much.
Sonya Carson has the classic Type A personality — hardworking, goal-oriented, driven to demanding the best of herself in any situation, refusing to settle for less. She's highly intelligent, a woman who quickly grasps the overall significance rather than searching for details. She has a natural ability — an intuitive sense — that enables her to perceive what should be done. That's probably her most outstanding characteristic.
Because of that determined, perhaps compulsive, personality that demanded so much from herself, she infused some of that spirit into me. I don't want to portray my mother as perfect because she was human too. At times her refusing to allow me to settle for less than the best came across as nagging, demanding, even heartless to me. When she believed in something she held on and wouldn't quit. I didn't always like hearing her say, "You weren't born to be a failure, Bennie. You can do it!" Or one of her favorites: "You just ask the Lord, and He'll help you."
Being kids, we didn't always welcome her lessons and advice. Resentment and obstinance crept in, but my mother refused to give up.
Over a period of years, with Mother's constant encouragement, both Curtis and I started believing that we really could do anything we chose to do. Maybe she brainwashed us into believing that we were going to be extremely good and highly successful at whatever we attempted. Even today I can clearly hear her voice in the back of my head saying, "Bennie, you can do it. Don't you stop believing that for one second."
Mother had only a third-grade education when she married, yet she provided the driving force in our home. She pushed my laid-back father to do a lot of things. Largely because of her sense of frugality, they saved a fair amount of money and eventually bought our first house. I suspect that, had things gone Mother's way, ultimately they would have been financially well-off. And I'm sure she had no premonition of the poverty and hardship she'd have to face in the years ahead.
By contrast, my father was six feet two, slender, and he often said, "You got to look sharp all the time, Bennie. Dress the way you want to be." He emphasized clothes and possessions, and he enjoyed being around people.
"Be nice to people. People are important, and if you're nice to them, they'll like you." Recalling those words, I believe he put great importance on being liked by everybody. If anyone asked me to describe my dad, I'd have to say, "He's just a nice guy." And, despite all the problems that erupted later, I feel that way today.
My father was the kind of person who would have wanted us to wear the fancy clothes and to do the macho kind of things like girl hunting — the lifestyle that would have been detrimental to establishing ourselves academically. In many ways, I'm now grateful my mother took us out of that environment.
Intellectually, Dad didn't easily grasp complex problems because he tended to get bogged down in details, unable to see the overall picture. That was probably the biggest difference between my parents.
Both parents came from big families: my mother had 23 siblings, and my father grew up with 13 brothers and sisters. They married when my father was 28 and my mother was 13. Many years later she confided that she was looking for a way to get out of a desperate home situation.
Shortly after their marriage, they moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Detroit, which was the trend for laborers in the late 1940s and early 1950s. People from the rural South migrated toward what they considered lucrative factory jobs in the North. My father got a job at the Cadillac plant. So far as I know, it was the first and only employment he ever held. He worked for Cadillac until he retired in the late 1970s.
My father also served as a minister in a small Baptist church. I've never been able to understand whether he was an ordained minister or not. Only one time did Daddy take me to hear him preach — or at least I remember only one occasion. Daddy wasn't one of those fiery types like some television evangelists. He spoke rather calmly, raised his voice a few times, but he preached in a relatively low key, and the audience didn't get stirred up. He didn't have a real flow of words, but he did the best he could. I can still see him on that special Sunday as he stood in front of us, tall and handsome, the sun glinting off a large metal cross that dangled across his chest.
* * *
I'm going away for a few days," Mother said several months after Daddy left us. "Going to see some relatives."
"We going too?" I asked with interest.
"No, I have to go alone." Her voice was unusually quiet. "Besides, you boys can't miss school."
Before I could object, she told me that we could stay with neighbors. "I've already arranged it for you. You can sleep over there and eat with them until I come back."
Maybe I should have wondered why she left, but I didn't. I was so excited to stay in somebody else's house because that meant extra privileges, better food, and a lot of fun playing with the neighbor kids.
That's the way it happened the first time and several times after that. Mother explained that she was going away for a few days, and we would be taken care of by our neighbors. Because she carefully arranged for us to stay with friends, it was exciting rather than frightful. Secure in her love, it never occurred to me that she wouldn't be back.
It may seem strange, but it is a testimony to the security we felt in our home — I was an adult before I discovered where Mother went when she "visited relatives." When the load became too heavy, she checked herself into a mental institution. The separation and divorce plunged her into a terrible period of confusion and depression, and I think her inner strength helped her realize she needed professional help and gave her the courage to get it. Usually she was gone for several weeks at a time.
We boys never had the slightest suspicion about her psychiatric treatment. She wanted it that way.
Excerpted from Gifted Hands by Ben Carson Cecil Murphey Copyright © 2011 by Sonya Carson . Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsA Letter from Sonya Carson....................7
1. "Goodbye, Daddy"....................11
2. Carrying the Load....................17
3. Eight Years Old....................23
4. Two Positives....................32
5. A Boy's Big Problem....................46
6. A Terrible Temper....................55
7. ROTC Triumph....................62
8. College Choices....................73
9. Changing the Rules....................82
10. A Serious Step....................94
11. Another Step Forward....................108
12. Coming Into My Own....................120
13. A Special Year....................133
14. A Girl Named Maranda....................146
16. Little Beth....................169
17. Three Special Children....................180
18. Craig and Susan....................189
19. Separating the Twins....................206
20. The Rest of Their Story....................219
21. Family Affairs....................226
22. Think Big....................232
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Oh my goodness!!!! Where can I start? This book was truly amzing and inspirational. I absolutely loved it! Dr. Ben Carson's story is truly incredible. He grew up without much, and was teased a lot as a child, but he still managed to keep his head up, stay at the top of his class, and eventually, he followed his dream, and became one of the world's top neurosurgeons. I admire him so much. I would recommend this book to EVERYONE. It's for people of all ages, and this book will truly touch you and possibly change the way you see things and people. Please read this book!
I have been searching for this book after I heard an interview with Dr. Carson on 98rock (baltimore radio station). So many people need to hear "people are just people". I wish his mom wrote a book on parenting :)
This is an inspiring true story of an illiterate mother's faith and requirement of the highest standards for her children that encouraged her son, against all odds, to become a reknowned pediatric neurosurgeon. He candidly tells his struggles, failures, and ultimate victories. Gripping story, an enjoyable must read! The movie is very good, too - but a book tells so much more of the inner person.
"gifted hands" is a very moving memoir by one of this nations top surgeons in the country. as a child he was not doing very well in school and was involved in gang activity and did not want to read his father had left the family and as a child he had a bad temper. dr carson shows in this amazing book how his mother and faith books turned his life around so much so that he was able to go to college and later become a top doctor that helps children. anyone can be greatly encouraged by this doctors life as well as the life lessons that he shares in the back of the book great gift idea for a friend or family member.
I just purchased, I can tell you this is going to be great. Im in ten pages and had to stop to give it five stars. †
A truly remarkable story about a remarkable man's journey to do God's will for him in this lifetime and help the entire human race in the process. We need more Ben Carson's to be sure. It reminded me of the importance of belief in oneself and humility throughout our lives. I feel fortunate to live in a country where the Ben Carson story can be the norm rather than the exception. He is an exceptional human being. Thanks Dr. Carson for keeping your focus all these years on God and his will for you. You have brightened this planet with your joy for your work and family.
The autobiography Gifted Hands by Ben Carson is an inspiring story of how an inner-city Detroit kid becomes one of the best neurosurgeons in the world. He shows how he beat racism, and how he embraces the power of God to perform miracles. He shows how he struggled through college, and how he fell in love. He describes the hard decisions he had to make, and how he made them. In all, it was a very good read, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
I can not believe that someone thinks that Dr. Ben Carson's story is self-serving. This book tells his story, and I have had the privilege of meeting him personally. He is a true servant-leader, a genuinely humble man in that he gives all credit for his success to God and his mother. One of the most inspirational people alive today.
I really thought this was a good book, really inspiring. It tells the story of how Ben Carson struggled beginning in elementary school being the slow one that always got everything wrong in class to being the highest achiever in his high school years. This book comes to show that anything is possible as long as you work hard on it and don¿t give up. We all go through our struggles as well as Ben he had to go through his parent¿s separation when he was only eight years old. Those were only the beginning of his problems. Only reading the book will tell you what other struggles Ben goes through. When I started reading this, I thought to myself ¿Oh this is just some lame book I was assigned to read!¿ but as I started reading it I really got into it. The characters in the book all seem to be Ben¿s inspiration to be everything he can be. It almost relates to me because a lot of people in my life are my inspiration to always do my best and not to quit. His brother and mother seem to be the pushing force behind all of Ben¿s success. Ben is a lot like me in many ways, we both went through some really hard times that were hard to overcome. But in the end, I always somehow get by it as well as Ben in this story. My overall review has to say that this book is an inspirational story that motivates anyone who reads it to try to succeed and always do their best, because in the end its always worth the try.
This is the first book that I read in 'ONE' day.I simply couldn't put it down.I plan on reading it to my students here at school.Everybody should read this wonderful book!!!!!
I felt that this book was very inspirational, that despite many obstacles this man was able to overcome them and become a wonderful physician that is able to help many people especially children.
It is hard to remain neutral as I work with Dr. Carson. He is a very intelligent man. It is great to see someone come from nothing to something. Very inspirational to everyone.
I think that Gifted Hands is a very inspirational and educational book and everyone should read it.
Mr.Ben Carson is a role model to me he had some of the same home issues I have. He always wanted to become a doctor, which he did. This lets me know as student it does not matter where you come from it is where you are going. Just keep GOD number one and you will be alright.
Extremely well written and straightforward boigraphy. He could have made this a race issue but its more than that. Its a human race issue of overcoming obstacles to be the best person he could be. Love him! Loved the book!
Great book was able to share it with a few inmates at a correctional facility,and they were all inspired by same.
Fabulous man, doctor and fabulous mother!! What a great biography!
I had to read this book for summer reading, and I really thought it was going to be boring, but I was wrong. When I started reading, I couldn't stop. Like the others have said, it is a very inspirational book, inspiring you to do your best and have faith in God. This book makes me want to know more about surgery, more specifically the brain. The first part of the book about his childhood is a little boring at first, personally I enjoyed the second half (adulthood) better than the first half. This man is truly amazing in what he does, saving children(and some adults for that matter) when others have failed. A terrific book about a terrific man. I fully recommend it to teens and adults.
TO THOSE WHO MAY THINK THEY HAVE REACHED ROCK BOTTOM, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS! BEN CARSON IS TRULY ONE OF MOST ADMIRABLE, HUMBLE CHARACTERS I'VE EVER READ IN MY LIFE. HIS GOD GIVEN TALENT IS A BLESSING TO ALL HUMANITY. THANK THE LORD FOR ALLOWING HIMSELF TO BE USED OF GOD.
I would love to meet Dr. Carson! What a humble and holy person. It was difficult to put the book down and with all his education made all the technical information easy to understand.
What an inspiring man! Ben Carson for president!
Besides the obvious, this book should have been called "Gifted Mind". Besides many lives that Doctor Benjamin Carson saved, through his skills, his teachings, his encouragement to others, he saved the most important live, and that was his own. His mind, will to succeed, never give up and never blame anyone but himself, is what got him where he was and where he is today. There are two types of people, who are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. One type tries and when unsuccessful, they blame everyone and everything. There is another type. Those who don't even try and go straight to blame via victim mentality and a problem that exists in society, never in themselves. Benjamin Carson is the third kind, the kind that sees potential and the light in every situation, a light in every possibility and each opportunity. Mr Carson was not born with that opportunity, that silver spoon in his mouth, and in fact, for the inner city kid, who had even less than others, even within that community, Benjamin Carson chose to create his own opportunity. He chose to see the downfalls as challenges, not discouragements. Doctor Carson saw a challenge, not despair or downfall, in everything he did and does. He chose to take life as it comes and play the deck as it was dealt to him, but with his best foot forward and his best possible abilities. This is a story of a man who never accepted what he had as a problem and what he was as a given, but decided to make himself the best that he could be and what his potential allowed him. He was only limited by himself, not what the others saw him and he never excepted failure. As I often say and many do as well, that America is a land of opportunity, but that doesn't mean that opportunity is there for everyone to receive without trying. Some have a gift of birth with fortune and the riches, but for Ben Carson, his fortune and riches was always within himself. It is one of the most inspiring stories and books that I have ever read. It is a real page turner and if they would have taught this mentality to kids, at the young age, we would see a lot more winners and not victims in every walk of life. I wish I read this book when I was in my teens, but better late than never. I loved it and highly recommend it to everyone. I personally think that this should be required reading in schools, so that the kids realize their potential and strive to better themselves through every challenge. This way the children from the young age can create their own opportunities and take advantage of those opportunities in life.
Great man; Great read. I don't believe we have heard the last of Dr. Ben Carson. I highly recommend this book.
This book would be at the top of my recommendations list. I have admired Dr. Carson for some time, and even more so after learning his life story. It is amazing to read of the surgeries he has performed on children who otherwise had no chance of recovery from brain disease or injury. By all means, read this book! He is truly a great surgeon and a great man.
He may be an incredible doctor, but that does not make him a good author. This book is written at an elementary school reading level. I just was hoping for a more intellectual read. Would recommend for 4th graders.