Tuesday, 27 November 2012 17:49

‘Far From the Tree’ and the Literature of Autism

The following is an excerpt from an article published in the New York Times as part of the Motherlode section.

On a recent road trip, my son, Jonah, and I outvoted my wife, Cynthia, winning the right to listen to Steely Dan’s “Greatest Hits.” This provided Cynthia with time to fashion a pointed critique of the songs Jonah and I were happily singing along to.

“This music’s slick and vacuous,” she pronounced during “Dr. Wu.”

“Exactly,” I said. “We’re guys. We love ‘slick and vacuous.’”

These days, I’m drawn to anything my son and I can enjoy together. He’s about to turn 14 and has autism – two factors that increase, exponentially, the ways in which his brain works differently than mine.

Down deep, we all expect our kids to be a chip off the old block, an expectation most parents will have sufficient time to give up gracefully. The word reproduction is “at best a euphemism,” as Andrew Solomon says in his new book, “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity.” A euphemism intended “to comfort prospective parents before they get in over their heads.”

The trouble with being the parents of a child profoundly different is that you’re in over your head before you know it. Difference is suddenly a way of life, and not the one you expected. “If you have a child with a disability,” Solomon writes, “you are forever the parent of a disabled child.”

There will be plenty of reminders of this fact, too. A decade ago, after Jonah’s diagnosis, I was bombarded with book recommendations from friends and strangers alike. (An autism diagnosis should come with a library card.) So I bought or borrowed everything I could on the subject; then went years actively not reading any of it. The unperused memoirs and self-help manuals on my night table grew into a stack of unmet obligations. Meanwhile, I fell asleep watching TV.

Read the rest of the article in the New York Times


Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism

badanimalsJoel Yanofsky tried for years to start this memoir. "It's not just going to be about autism," he told his wife, Cynthia. "It's going to be about parenthood and marriage, about hope and despair, and storytelling, too." 

BC National Award for Non-Fiction Video

Joel Yanofsky at BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Click on the image to watch the video