A reminder to look past a diagnosis and see a person in full.

MY DREAMS, CHALLENGES AND JOYS

A poignant account by a woman who learns life-affirming lessons from her autistic daughter.

Jannazzo’s straightforward, moving narrative chronicles how her daughter’s autism transformed the author’s life. The author does not attempt to be heroic; she confesses how life with her daughter was challenging: “I became frustrated. I shouted, ‘Diana, talk to me, sing to me, something, anything at all.’ ” Later, while in the process of making the decision to place Diana in an independent living situation, Jannazzo admits, “I decided to seek professional counseling in order to prepare myself for this major change in our lives and deal with the confusion and guilt I was feeling.” These admissions give necessary depth and pathos to the book. When the work details the support of Jannazzo’s family, however, it begins to sound like a thank-you letter: “Thank goodness for Uncle Louie. He owned a tow truck business and was out working many times in the evenings. As it would take me hours to get Diana to fall asleep some nights, Uncle Louie came to the rescue.” In contrast, Jannazzo’s compelling anecdotes about Diana prove to be the true source of inspiration. She tells how a staff member gave Diana roller skates to see if they could change her behavior after she got into trouble at school. The effect was immediate: “She began to enjoy school; she became the social butterfly as she skated from classroom to classroom to ‘visit’ her classmates, always looking for attention.” Jannazzo celebrates who her daughter is today, “She lives in her own wondrous world, never having learned to read or write, but she is Diana. I think she knows more about life and living and loving than most people I know.”

A reminder to look past a diagnosis and see a person in full.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477146552

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2013

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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