Monday, March 3, 2008

Step in the Right Direction

Lately I've noticed an increasing number of popular books about what it's like to see the world differently. Here are some of the best ones:
Eye Contact, Cammie McGovern
Rules, Cynthia Lord
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
A Mango-Shaped Space, Wendy Mass
The Martian Child, David Gerrold
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
The first three involve young people with some degree of autism, and the reader learns to see things more from their point of view and even to appreciate the view. The next two are about people who can see colors associated with things like numbers, letters, and sounds, and how others react to that seemingly innocuous gift (synesthesia). The Martian child sees everything so differently that he decides he must be from another planet (this is the oldest of these books). The protagonist of the last book is born a hermaphrodite, and spends years trying to fit in as a girl until, at puberty, he finds out that he is genetically male, despite a doctor who tries to keep this from him.

The good thing about these books is that most of the revelations they provide are for parents. Kids are growing up without as many ideas about fitting in and what "normal" is. It's still a much bigger fight than it should be to let a child who doesn't fit in with other children his age do something like skip a grade. But it's getting better, and some of that must have to do with the increased popularity of books like these.

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