Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary Worldby Debra Ginsberg
When you have a child that doesn't fit in, what do you do? Debra Ginsberg knew that her son, Blaze, was unique from the moment he was born in 1987. What she didn't know was that Blaze's differences would be regarded by the outside world not as gifts, but as impediments to social and academic success. Blaze never crawled. He just got up and walked when he turned one
When you have a child that doesn't fit in, what do you do? Debra Ginsberg knew that her son, Blaze, was unique from the moment he was born in 1987. What she didn't know was that Blaze's differences would be regarded by the outside world not as gifts, but as impediments to social and academic success. Blaze never crawled. He just got up and walked when he turned one. He called his mother 'Zsa Zsa' until he was three. By kindergarten, he loved the music of Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald. He fears butterflies and is fascinated by garbage trucks. With the same honesty that made Waiting a success, Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World chronicles Debra's experience in raising a child who has defied definition by the host of professionals who have sought to label his differences. Ginsberg introduces us to a remarkable child and her own unusual childhood. She writes about a family which shows us the redemptive power of faith, humour and love.
According to Jeanne Safer, in The Normal One, the families of disabled or difficult children also suffer. Inspired by her own troubled relationship with her brother, Safer sees "normal" siblings as suffering from "Caliban syndrome." Her book tries to peek under the sentimental surface of most representations of disability (such as the TV star who told Us magazine that her mentally retarded sister was "my love, my heart, my angel"). She writes, "Guilt is rarely absent from the thoughts of healthy adults about their damaged siblings because no amount of devotion or care can make the damaged whole or blot out the dark victory of their own normality." Though some draw away, others become martyrs, feeling inextricably bound to care uncritically for their less able brother or sister. And some, like Safer, reject the sibling, then write a book about it..(Andrea Thompson)
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Read an Excerpt
Enough Breath to Cry
Any story about a birth must have its origin in a story about conception. And if the story is about conception (at least, a conception that happens in the traditional way), then there has to be a story about the two people responsible. This is usually where the complications and intricacies come into play for the first time; two people creating a third. Our story is like this too -- complicated, intricate, ongoing. If it had just stayed the two of us -- John and me -- this would have been a very short story, indeed. But, we created a third. And, despite our best efforts to dissolve the connection between us, that third person links us together forever.
I met John in the most mundane way possible; at a party in Portland, Oregon, where I was living in 1986, introduced by a mutual friend who thought we would hit it off because we were both aspiring writers. As we stood talking, drinks and cigarettes hanging casually from our hands, I didn't even think John was my type. He was good-looking, I thought, but not nearly dangerous enough for me. At that point in my life, I was still mostly attracted to men who were dark, edgy, and damaged in some way. In short, a challenge. John seemed a bit too smooth to fit this profile but I gave him my phone number anyway (like I said, he was good-looking and he could string an intelligent sentence together -- both real bonuses) and when he called me a couple of days later, I agreed to a date.
It was during that first, very simple, just-coffee-and-dessert date that I decided I really liked John and the fact that he wasn't my type was probably quite a good thing.So there was a second, more elaborate date. We went to dinner and then to a play. John walked me home to my apartment and I asked him if he'd like to come up for coffee. He kissed me in the middle of my tiny kitchen and then everything just ignited.
The word ignited seems particularly appropriate to me. John and I didn't just start dating each other; we burst into flame. We fell into intimacy quickly, easily, and without thought. Our relationship was so passionate and so physical that I kept thinking we were getting along like a house on fire. But there was more to it than just remembering the aphorism: I could visualize the burning house, I could feel the two of us consuming each other.
Aside from the few hours every day when we worked at our separate restaurant jobs, John and I spent every moment together. When we weren't caught in the throes of passion, we were talking about it. We spent hours discussing how neither one of us had ever experienced the white heat we were generating between ourselves and what did that mean? What could it be? Was it love? Maybe something even deeper, we thought.
John started calling me "Juliet" and stood in the parking lot under my fourth-floor apartment, pitching small rocks at my window. "I can't leave you," he wailed up at me. "You are bliss." He read a draft of my novel and said I was a gifted writer. I read a draft of his novel and thought it was deep. He cooked lasagna for me in my little kitchen. I bought him a black wool sweater. Every time he appeared at my door, he brought a small gift; daisies, a bottle of red wine, a rare old book titled Devil in the Flesh. He had a "meet the family" dinner at my parents' house and seemed to enjoy the experience. He put me on the phone with his mother who said, "I've heard so much about you."
After three weeks of this intensity, John turned to me and said, "I think this might be It. You, I mean. You and I." It might be, I thought. Yes, it might indeed be. Admitting this felt frightening, as if I were relinquishing what little control I had over my fate. Falling in love is still falling and making that leap scared me. I remembered what a painful process picking myself up after one of those falls could be. still, I let myself fall. I was twenty-four and not in the least bit concerned with protecting myself emotionally.
Nature is direct and its laws are specific. Anything that burns as ferociously as we did in those first couple of months will eventually consume itself and, ultimately, that is what happened. John and I began quarreling over issues that hadn't even factored in the previous weeks of passion. He became irritated with my insecurity. I thought he was lazy and moved on his goals too slowly. He said I was too impulsive. I accused him of being selfish. He said that I was the most demanding person he had ever met. I told him that he was unable to see a point of view other than his own. We began arguing late at night when we were tired and frustrated. Our barbs were sharpest then and most likely to do real damage. We fought in bed and we made up there too, but this roller coaster of emotions became nauseating after a while and we started showing signs of wear. That flaming house had burned to the ground and we were lying in the ashes.
I wasn't really surprised when John showed up one day dressed in tan slacks and a beige, cashmere sweater. This was breakup attire and I knew it. He started talking about how we had gone so fast -- perhaps too fast -- and now we weren't making each other happy and we should probably give each other some space. I have to say, John was terrible when it came to breaking up. He was predictable...Raising Blaze. Copyright © by Debra Ginsberg. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Debra Ginsberg is the author of Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress and Raising Blaze: Bringing Up an Extraordinary Son in an Ordinary World. A graduate of Reed College, she is a contributor to NPR's All Things Considered and the San Diego Union-Tribune "Books" section.
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