An X Games competitive skier and photographer recounts an extraordinary life spent overcoming immense physical limitations.
Connolly was born without legs in the summer of 1985, in Helena, Mont., after his mother endured a lengthy, difficult labor. His condition is known as Bilateral Amelia of the lower extremities and, without artificial limbs, the author would live his life at 3’1” tall. The family made the best of the tragic situation by using humor to mask hardship or disappointment, but it was Connolly’s father, a tough man with a feathered mullet, who snapped into action and became inspired by the innovative inventions featured on the TV series MacGyver. With varying degrees of success and usefulness, he outfitted everything from handrails to toilet seats in an effort to accommodate his son. The dark side of living with a disability seeps through as Connolly describes the eagle-eyed scrutiny of cruel children, the unmanageability of prosthetics in grade school (“a pair of glorified, flesh-colored stilts wasn’t the solution”) and, wheelchair-bound, his daring (if unsuccessful) courtship of one of his classmates. Determined attempts at wrestling proved fruitless yet paved the way for major victories racing on a mono-ski atop Montana’s Bridger Bowl under the watchful eye of his proud father. Not wanting to “hold anyone else up,” Connolly spent school breaks traveling solo throughout Europe strapped to a skateboard, reuniting with kindhearted folks like Serge, an Internet friend living in the Ukraine. As powerful as his memoir reads, it is Connolly’s photographs—featured at the beginning of each chapter and on his website—of people’s reactions to him that provide a striking visual punch. By the end of his European vacation, he’d taken more than 900 “empowering,” “therapeutic” images, which today total more than 30,000. Embarking on both a stint at the X Games and a photographic project called “The Rolling Exhibition”—it has since been featured at The Smithsonian—the fearless author continues to persevere and seeks to motivate others.
A courageous, immensely rewarding chronicle expressed in arresting words and pictures.