Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism - by Ron Suskind

This is the book Bridgewater's One Book One Community steering committee chose for our spring 2016 read. We considered several different books about autism, but ultimately chose Suskind's memoir about his autistic son's love for Disney animated films. I wasn't completely thrilled about the choice, as I get weary of the ubiquitousness of all things Disney, however, once we choose a book I get behind it, and so I read this one, and I have to say I am glad we picked it.

This is the story of Owen, and his family, and how they were initially able to connect with each other watching, and acting out scenes from Disney films together. Ultimately the family discovered that Owen related deeply to the stories and the characters, which allowed him to also start relating to other people. Suskind contextualizes the Disney stuff well, and he is a brilliant storyteller. This is also simply a remarkable story.

Libraries play a rather small role in this work. Twice they are mentioned in passing as part of a longer list of things one expects to find in a school building, along with classrooms, gymnasiums, and the principal's office. However, the DC Public Library is the site of an "incident" complete with a "sotto voce..., bespectacled" librarian who isn't sure what to make of the young boy acting out a scene from the 1994 film The Pagemaster by parting the books and wedging "nearly his whole body in the dark space between the bookcases". Even if I hadn't otherwise enjoyed the book, that scene was worth reading it for. I've added The Pagemaster to my Netflix list. Watch for a review of it soon.

I don't think anyone on our committee knew that a documentary of Owen's story was being made when we selected the book, but I found out it recently opened at the Sundance Film Festival. Another movie I'm looking forward to watching.

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