A striking celebration of the bond between a mother and son.

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THE ANTI-ROMANTIC CHILD

A STORY OF UNEXPECTED JOY

Literary agent Gilman, a former professor of English literature, describes the challenges that she faced parenting a developmentally disabled son.

The author’s expectations of motherhood were shaped by her memories of her own idyllic childhood, reinforced by the romantic poetry of Wordsworth. The reality was harsher until, to her great delight, at the age one her son Benjamin began showing what appeared to be amazing precocity. He recognized letters, could identify objects and at 16 months could read several words. Though he didn’t like being touched and was fearful of loud sounds, he delighted in showing off his skills. At two, he was able to read fluently and tap out complex rhythms, and he loved to sing and recite poetry. His memory was also impressive, as was his recognition of shapes and numbers. Gilman's anxiety for her son began to dissipate, and she and her husband “simply accepted that we had an odd, unconventional, and possibly brilliant little boy on our hands.” That illusion was shattered when he was evaluated for admission to a preschool. The school administration was concerned about his lack of social skills and his tendency to parrot words rather than use them to express himself. He seemed to lack a sense of identity and didn't appear to comprehend simple pronouns, and his motor skills were poorly developed. He was also anxious and couldn't relate to the other children. Seeking professional help, the author learned that he suffered from hyperplexia, a disorder that is sometimes linked to Asperger's. The author chronicles how she and her husband, his teachers and therapists, were able to help him gain language skills and master his anxieties so that he could not only relate to others but fully express his own creative gifts. “In parenting Benj,” writes the author, “I have gotten more in touch with a profound kind of romanticism; I have been given access to a transcendent sense of mystery and awe and wonder.”

A striking celebration of the bond between a mother and son.

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-169027-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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