Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
April is autism awareness month. Appropriately this month’s online book club theme is Understanding Autism. The four books chosen are all about people who have autism or whose lives have been touched by it. People’s perception of autism is changing with time just as our understanding of it evolves. Autism is viewed as a spectrum and there are names for different ways that autism manifest itself identified on that spectrum. No two people with autism are alike just like none of the rest of us are.
Wherever someone is on the spectrum, they often find themselves running up against difficulties because the rigid expectations in our so-called “normal” society are not accommodating to their needs, which can range from severe to mild.
It behooves us all to embrace diversity and realize that our world is stronger when we are concerned about the rights and needs of everyone. When is comes down to it we are all human beings and the world we live in could use a whole lot more acceptance and kindness.
Today on Library Moments Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each talk about a book that features someone on the autism spectrum.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: When his grandson was born, Daniel Gottlieb began to write a series of heartfelt letters that he hoped Sam would read later in life. He planned to cover all the important topics—dealing with your parents, handling bullies, falling in love, coping with death—and what motivated him was the fear that he might not live long enough to see Sam reach adulthood. You see, Daniel Gottlieb is a quadriplegic—the result of a near-fatal automobile accident that occurred two decades ago—and he knows enough not to take anything for granted.
Then, when Sam was only 14 months old, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disability, a form of autism, and suddenly everything changed. Now the grandfather and grandson were bound by something more: a disability—and Daniel Gottlieb’s special understanding of what that means became invaluable.Gottlieb’s lovingly written, emotionally gripping book Letters To Sam: a grandfather’s lessons on love, loss, and the gifts of life offers unique—and universal—insights into what it means to be human.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: In The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry, Ginny Selvaggio doesn’t like loud noises, cuts all the tags out of her clothes, and has difficulty making eye contact with others. She has lived all her life with her parents, shying away from all but those people who are closest to. But when her parents die unexpectedly her life is upended – and even more so when her overbearing younger sister, Amanda, is determined to sell the family home and force Ginny to move in with her family “for her own good”. While Ginny grapples with grieving the loss of her parents, and struggling with what others consider “normal” in grief, she seeks solace in the one thing that has comforted her all her life – food. Not eating, but cooking. As she delves into her family’s handwritten recipes, she finds herself conjuring their ghosts and unravelling a family secret that has implications for Ginny and her future.
The central conflict in The Kitchen Daughter is the question of what is best for the main character, Ginny. However, it quickly becomes clear that the people who think they know what’s best for Ginny are really thinking about what’s best for themselves, and not really asking Ginny what’s best for her at all. While the rest of the story of The Kitchen Daughter revolves around the different ways we grieve, and the significance of our family histories, the most important lesson is that no matter what label we carry around we need to treat each other as we would wish to be treated ourselves.
Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Colin Fischer by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz is a young adult book about Colin Fischer who is 14 and has Asperger’s, one of the identified types found on the autism spectrum. Although he struggles to understand human emotions, he’s brilliant at logical deduction. When a gun fires into the ceiling of the school cafeteria, everyone blames Wayne, school bully and usual suspect. But Colin Fischer turns detective; only he spots a connection between the gun and some birthday cake. Only Colin can uncover the truth. This book has been compared to Mark Haddon’s wildly successful Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
As we have said many times, and there is research to prove it, reading and empathy have a strong connection. It is our hope that by reading about people with autism we can better understand why people are the way they are and accept them for who they are.
Anyone can participate in Haliburton County Public Library’s Online Book Club by choosing to read one or more of four books selected each month. You don’t even have to read from a particular month’s selection you can simply go online and make comments about books and reading in general.
To join the online book club, look for the Social Media links on our homepage at www.haliburtonlibrary.ca. Click on the “g” for Goodreads and it’ll take you right to the Online Book Club page. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments, thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM April 24th – 30th, 2016.