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Day before yesterday's review. Via Gallian.

I wanted to like this more than I did. Mooney, having spent most of his childhood and adolescence in various forms of special-ed due to diagnoses including dyslexia and possible ADD, bought a used short school bus of the kind commonly used by special-ed programs and spent a summer driving around the U.S. meeting and interviewing people with various conditions commonly considered disabilities. He originally met most of his contacts through speaking gigs in which he discusses his dyslexia and having gone to Brown; one of the things I liked most about this book is the not-quite-humor with which he states in the first sentence that one of his life goals used to be being an after-school special. Over the course of the summer he proposes to his girlfriend, goes to Burning Man, looks at conceptual art, hits a lot of major and minor cities briefly, travels with various family members and others, and of course talks with a great many people, some with clear-cut diagnoses and some not.

If you know nothing whatsoever about the political issues surrounding disability, disability education, community integration etc., this might not be a terrible place to start, because he meets people from a lot of different communities who have a lot of different things going on, and he gives reasonable summary. He treats other people as human beings, consistently, and he admits when he has trouble doing it, which is more than many writers do, and he doesn't seem to want cookies for it. But-- hm. One of the people he spends some time with is an outsider artist in Maine, who has the label of 'town eccentric' but who also went through school being called retarded, slow, and so on in a way where there were no actual diagnoses involved but a lot of terrible bullying. And one of the things that becomes obvious is that she's a trans woman, which is orthogonal to the various mental health labels but sure as hell had something to do with the bullying. And, well. The author means well. He really does. But this is kind of the epitome of the sort of piece written by a well-meaning person who does not know much about the issues he is writing about, and the main thing I have to say to him about that entire chapter is: use the right fucking pronouns.

So this set of issues concerning the part of the book that involves something I know something about does not inspire me with confidence in the parts of the book that involve things I don't know as much about, you know? I have confidence in everything about his personal life and his issues, that he knows the truth he speaks there, because duh. But the rest of it-- given the format of this, it's inevitably going to be a quick skim over the top of a great many separate sets of things, he's traveling, he's always moving on. But it is so damn important that that skim be as accurately representative as humanly possible, and I just don't have that faith.

He also spends a lot of time talking about how the trip changed him, how much he changed and found himself, but this is a very clear-cut case of telling and not showing, because I didn't see much evidence of it. But that is what you have to say about trips like this, isn't it. I don't know, maybe he did profoundly change, but just didn't manage to communicate it?

Anyway, I might, with those very heavy caveats very clearly explained, hand this to someone as the beginning of a discussion about disability and politics. Assuming I can't find something better. There really has to be something better out there. Doesn't there? Recs accepted.


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March 2017

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