Books dealing directly with special needs:
The Power of the Powerless: A Brother’s Legacy of Love – There’s a ceramic, red bowl on a bookshelf in the building where I work for Miracle Sports. Behind the bowl is this book, the book that explains the bowl. Christopher De Vinck’s memoir is a powerful tale of one family’s lessons of love, learned from their relationship with Oliver. “Well, I grew up in a house where my brother was on his back in bed for thirty-two years, in the same corner of his room, under the same window, beside the same yellow walls. He was blind, mute. His legs were twisted. He didn’t have the strength to lift his head or the intelligence to learn anything.” (POTP, page 8) It’s honest, transparent, emotional, raw, and beautiful. De Vinck is a gifted writer and his subject matter is certainly worth the writing. This book was the inspiration for The Journey.
Adam: God’s Beloved – Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote the foreword to The Power of the Powerless and his thoughts led me to his book. “Adam could not speak, or even move without assistance. Gripped by frequent seizures, he spent his life in obscurity. In the eyes of the world he was a complete nobody. and yet, for Nouwen he became, ‘my friend, my teacher, and my guide.’ ” (from the book jacket) This book is about one man’s journey from ivory tower ignorance to immersion induced awareness. Nouwen left his professorship to become Adam’s primary caregiver and this book tells the story.
Just the Way I Am: God’s Good Design in Disability – Krista Horning works with extraordinary children and partnered with photographer, Josh Hackney, to produce this powerful coffee table book about God and His unique children. The pictures are familiar, the words are encouraging, the book is moving.
Being the Other One: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister Who Has Special Needs – As the title suggests, Katie Strohm collected the stories from siblings in extraordinary families. The time and attention required for caring for extraordinary children leads many of their siblings to wrestle with deep questions and emotions. This book is a great resource to give parents a little perspective and siblings some encouragement. Use this book to begin the conversation in your home.
Wait until Then – This book is especially written for kids who have a disability. Nathan was born with Spina Bifida and longed to play baseball, just like his grandpa had done. The old man played with the Boston Red Sox – one season with Ted Williams. Now, the old man’s body is frail and the two guys look forward to Heaven and their chance to run without limitations, in God’s place.
Schuyler’s Monster: A Father’s Journey with his Wordless Daughter – This is Robert Rummel-Hudson’s memoir of becoming the father of Schuyler, and then discovering she has something called polymicrogyria. Unable to speak, Schuyler is still a profound communicator and shares a powerful bond with her father. I found it compelling and it resonated with my experience on multiple fronts. There are a few details I wish had been left on the editing floor, so you might want to read it before you give it to the kids. You can read my full overview here – Extraordinary Books: Schuyler’s Monster.
Why, O God? Suffering and Disability in the Bible and Church – Bookended with chapters penned by Joni Eareckson Tada, “Why, O God?” offers a survey of disability and suffering from every book of the Bible, a few chapters dealing with the ethical treatment of those with disabilities, and some that deal with the philosophical underpinnings of how our culture currently views those who suffer. The end of the book is the most practical and where I found the most helpful reading. With chapters written by PhD’s, MD’s, college professors, and directors of national disability research groups you will find insightful tips for befriending people with all variety of disability. Continue reading this review.
All He Needs for Heaven – Jim McDoniel wrote this short (124 pages) memoir about raising his son, Chet. Chet was born with no arms and significantly shortened legs, “as if the thigh section was missing.” The author touches on topics like IEP’s, people’s reactions to Chet, the response from their church, their theological view of Chet’s limb deficiency, etc. while tracing Chet’s life from birth until present day. It isn’t a particularly strong book from a literary perspective, but their story is interesting and worth reading. You can read my full review here – Extraordinary Books: All He Needs for Heaven
Bryson City Tales, Bryson City Seasons, and Bryson City Secrets – Written by Dr. Walt Larimore and set in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, this collection of books are some of my all-time favorites. Partly because they are written well, partly because they’re full of rich characters and pleasant stories, but mostly because of how much these books resonated with me and how I came upon them. These are memoirs of Dr. Larimore beginning his family practice in Bryson City, NC and he openly shares stories involving his daughter Kate who has Cerebral Palsy. I love these books! Read my full review here – Extraordinary Books: The Bryson City Series
Fictional books with extraordinary characters:
Frankenstein – Frankenstein’s monster isn’t someone you might thing of when you picture someone with special needs. However, the author does a masterful job describing the monster’s emotional struggle to be accepted in a world where he’s not “Normal.” As I read, I wondered if Mary Shelley was familiar with autism.
Deadline – Randy Alcorn’s novel about a newspaper columnist investigating the death of his two closest friends features a character with Down’s Syndrome. This is the first story I’d ever read including an extraordinary character. There are a couple tough to read scenes where goons talk down to Little Finn, but its an unfortunate reality for many extraordinary people. I enjoyed the book, and recently finished the sequel, Dominion, which also includes Little Finn.
When Crickets Cry – This was my first Charles Martin novel, and I’m glad I found it. I’ve read more since and even had the opportunity to get to know Charles. This isn’t a novel about disability, but one of the main supporting character is blind and Martin does a good job with him.
Caedmon brought this one home from the library, but I know he didn’t realize one of the main characters was deaf. The author, Myron Uhlberg, patterned the man after his real father, who was also deaf. I appreciated that he created unique onomatopoeia to express the way his father cheered for Jackie, “AH-GHEE, AH-GHEE, AH-GHEE!” It’s a good story, about a good story (Jackie Robinson breaking into Major League Baseball), and it highlights another extraordinary person. Definitely a book to read with the kids.
A reader recommended House Rules, by Jodi Picoult, so when I saw it at the Goodwill I picked it up. It’s a wonderful glimpse into the heart and mind of a teenager with Asperberger’s Syndrome, his brother, and the single mom trying to hold it all together. A mystery of sorts, House Rules takes you into the world of forensic science and a legal drama, while all along painting a vivid picture of the extraordinary world of Asperger’s. This book was the source for four “Speaking of Normal” posts, and a few follow ups as well. I wrote a brief post on what I learned, from a writing perspective, from reading House Rules. (One disclaimer, I would rate this book a R for the language.)
Let me know if you have any books to add to the list.