El Deafo: moving, fresh YA comic-book memoir about growing up deaf

Cece Bell's young adult graphic novel El Deafo is a beautiful, sweet, moving and funny memoir about growing up deaf. Take one part Ernie Pook's Comeek and two parts of Peanuts, mix thoroughly, and add some indefinable secret ingredients, and you'll get El Deafo, which Cory Doctorow thoroughly enjoyed.

Can you trust a sociopath's memoir?

I have never killed anyone, but I have certainly wanted to. I may have a disorder, but I am not crazy. In a world filled with gloomy, mediocre nothings populating a go-nowhere rat race, people are attracted to my exceptionalism like moths to a flame. This is my story.

That's the beginning of an essay about sociopathy written from the perspective of a sociopath. The author, M.E. Thomas, recently published a book about her experience being a sociopath. The name is a pseudonym and it's not totally clear how much of this story you can trust. For instance, whether Thomas' sociopathy is actually professionally diagnosed or not seemed unclear to me. Another example: At one point in the essay, she says she wasn't an abused child — then goes on to describe a childhood with a father who once beat apart a bathroom door to get at her and a mother who nearly let her die from appendicitis to avoid the medical bills ... and then blamed Thomas for her own illness. It's all a little weird.

That said, there's value in the "interesting, if true" sort of read that this is. At the very least, I've never seen an actual sociopath describe their own condition before. So, if that's what's actually going on here, it's a tour of a very different way of thinking. I'm not sure whether the fact that it all comes across as very manipulative is evidence in favor of, or against, the purported origins of the narrative. Read the rest

Memoir of raising an autistic boy who found himself with Disney World's help

Back in June, blogged about Ben, a young man with autism who had a fierce devotion to the Snow White ride at Walt Disney World, and who was the last person to ride it, after more than 3,500 turns on it.

Ben's father, Ron Miles, has published a memoir of his life with Ben, in which he narrates his journey as the father of a child with a profound mental disability, his love affair with Disney parks, and Ben's development through the extraordinary adults in his life (including some very special and caring Disney cast-members). It's an unflinching -- and sometimes unflattering -- account of the challenges of parenting and the special challenges of parenting a child with autism.

I read it very quickly, and often had to dab at my eyes, but it's not a weeper, really -- there's plenty of hilarity and thoughtful wonder and appreciation of the sweetness of parenting as well as the difficulties. Here's the blurb I sent to Ron for the book: "Brimming with heart and tragedy overcome, this is a book that captures the tribulations of parenthood, the magic of Disney World, and the wonderful online communities that allow us to lend aid and comfort to strangers around the world."

It's called 3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White, and it's just out, and I heartily recommend it to you.

3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance with Snow White Read the rest

Little House on the Prairie, serial killers, and the nature of memoir

Over the weekend, I read a couple of the posts blogger Ana Mardoll has been writing in which she deconstructs some of the weirder/more objectionable elements of the Little House books. That sent me looking for an essay I'd read several years ago on the actual history of how the Osage people were removed from southeastern Kansas ... which is given a prominent, if rather warped, role in Little House on the Prairie.

I didn't find that essay, but I did find several references to a story I had never, ever heard before. Turns out, the Ingalls family's sojourn in Kansas might have overlapped with that of a family of serial killers. At the American Indians in Children's Literature blog, Debbie Reese writes about stumbling across the story in the transcript of a speech Laura Ingalls Wilder gave in 1937. Here's an excerpt from that transcript:

There were Kate Bender and two men, her brothers, in the family and their tavern was the only place for travelers to stop on the road south from Independence. People disappeared on that road. Leaving Independence and going south they were never heard of again. It was thought they were killed by Indians but no bodies were ever found.

Then it was noticed that the Benders’ garden was always freshly plowed but never planted. People wondered. And then a man came from the east looking for his brother, who was missing.

... In the cellar underneath was the body of a man whose head had been crushed by the hammer.

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Rudy Rucker's autobiography: Nested Scrolls

Rudy Rucker sez, "So I decided that I’d better write my autobiography before it was too late. What with death and senility closing in! I didn’t want my autobio to be overly long or dry. I wanted it to read something like a novel. Unlike an encyclopedia entry, a novel isn’t a list of dates and events. A novel is all about characterization and description and conversation, about action and vignettes. I wanted to structure my autobiography, Nested Scrolls, like that."

In addition to the Tor edition, there's a fine limited edition from PS Publishing.

Nested Scrolls reveals the true life adventures of Rudy Rucker--­mathematician, transrealist author, punk rocker, and computer hacker. It begins with a young boy growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of a businessman father who becomes a clergyman, and a mother descended from the philosopher Hegel. His career goals? To explore infinity, popularize the fourth dimension, seek the gnarl, become a beatnik writer, and father a family.

All the while Rudy is reading science fiction and beat poetry, and beginning to write some pretty strange fiction of his own­--a blend of Philip K. Dick and hard SF that qualifies him as part of the original circle of writers in the early 1980s that includes Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, John Shirley, and Lewis Shiner, who were the founders of cyberpunk.

At one level, Rucker’s genial and unfettered memoir brings us a first-hand account of how he and his contemporaries ushered in our postmodern world. At another, this is the wry and moving tale of a man making his way from one turbulent century to the next.

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Depression the Hyperbole and a Half way

Hyperbole and a Half, the brilliant, frenetic, illustrated memoir, tackles sudden depression, its effects and eventual cure in the long awaited new installment.

I spent months shut in my house, surfing the internet on top of a pile of my own dirty laundry which I set on the couch for "just a second" because I experienced a sudden moment of apathy on my way to the washer and couldn't continue. And then, two weeks later, I still hadn't completed that journey. But who cares - it wasn't like I had been showering regularly and sitting on a pile of clothes isn't necessarily uncomfortable. But even if it was, I couldn't feel anything through the self hatred anyway, so it didn't matter. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE.

Adventures in Depression (via Beth Pratt) Read the rest