Friday, May 2, 2014

the sound of letting go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

My nephew has autism, and I actively seek out resources to learn more about the disability constantly. Those of you who hang with me know that when I start talking about my sister, the conversation will soon turn to Harry. He is amazing to be around---always smiling and engaging and trying to engage me and saying my name and gawd, I just find him amazing. I love to watch him--I could study him for hours. You likely already know how much I get stoked studying young people--I am simply amazed at how they make connections, invest what they know in what they do, how they think. I study them endlessly when I teach young people, and I take a ton of notes and percolate relentlessly. Harry is brilliant (every kid really is), and how he does stuff is so cool. Like when he puts together puzzles or plays with matchbox cars, it is simply amazing to watch how he does it. It is even interesting (for me!) to watch how he hunts down his older brother, the wise and compassionate Will Grey, and smacks him. Seriously---he does this to get Will Grey's attention, to remind Will Grey that he is still there. At seemingly random times. Not surprising--brotherly love--but it is the way he does it. Crafty and wicked smart.  So the question: does this have anything to do with the autism he has been diagnosed with? I think so.

Author Stasia Ward Kehoe has a new fan with her new book. In this sophomore novel, Kehoe frames her protagonist through a world of sister. Daisy loves her brother Steven but because of the seemingly endless challenges her brother offers the family through his autism (not sure if that is the right way to frame it so correct me here if i am off), she plays third parent regularly. At first she figures her parents are getting a divorce but no: an unexpected bombshell hits and explodes within her family and in turn within her. This story captures the challenges of life within a family dealing with teenagers (both Daisy and Steven fit that category), the challenges of a child impaired by autism, and a whole host of other trials known through Daisy's life as a high-school student. I loved how Kehoe writes this one in verse. Some of her phrasing is just gorgeous. There is a deep simplicity to this story, but the author so richly and sparingly uses words that I often simply paused, taking moments to breathe into her writing. 

I have long wondered how my nephew Will Grey might communicate what it is like to have a brother who among other gifts has autism. I wonder if he would choose song or writing. I wonder what he might say. I have seen a number of sweet and informative pieces on TED Talks and You Tube connected to brothers and sisters and autism. This book however seems to take the cake in writing from that particular angle. Sweet and yet phenomenally difficult, it is worthy of reading and digesting. the sound of letting go. Thanks, Ms Kehoe for writing the book. 

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