I RAISE MY EYES TO SAY YES by Ruth & Steven B. Kaplan Sienkiewicz-Mercer


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The remarkable autobiography of a woman so severely handicapped that she can communicate only by raising or lowering her eyes. Sienkiewicz-Mercer developed cerebral palsy as an infant and is unable to move her limbs, sit up unaided, or speak. She communicates by raising her eyes to say yes and curling her lip to say no. She also laughs, cries, and demonstrates anger, fear, and pain. How did she write an autobiography? With the aid of friend and teacher Steven Kaplan, Ruth was able to communicate the story of her life by answering yes and no to Kaplan's questions. She led him to the subject she wished to discuss by indicating words or letters on a word board with her eyes. It took years for Kaplan to elicit the sad and inspiring story of Ruth's life. The demands of other children forced Ruth's family to place her in a state institution, where she was wrongly diagnosed as imbecilic, then retarded. Diapered and virtually force-fed until she was a teen-ager, she spent most of her days in bed, bored and miserable. Finally, as a new and sympathetic group of attendants understood that in the helpless body was a bright and lively mind, Ruth's life gradually began to improve. Eventually she was able to live in a group home, and is now married and sharing an apartment with her husband, who also has cerebral palsy. Ruth's tales of life in the state hospital are simple and similar to other accounts-shortages of time, money, supplies, staff, and a vacuum where compassion should have been--but her determined struggle to communicate is unique. Quite affecting are the section headings, the few brief words like ""12. birthday""--selected by Ruth to begin the revelation of the complex thoughts and feelings associated with her 12th birthday--or ""Bored. Smart. Young. Depressed."" to discuss her frustration at being assigned, at age 24, to quarters with young children.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1989
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin