Thursday Book Feature: Homecoming

Homecoming: A Memoir

By David Russell

Copyright 2018.

 

This short memoir is autobiographical in nature, spanning the author’s life from birth till the present. David Russell talks about being born prematurely in the 1950’s and blinded as a result of receiving too much oxygen. He then touches on his life growing up in Michigan, living in a succession of homes, being sent to a public elementary school, then choosing to attend the state school for the blind during his junior and senior high years.

After describing his high school graduation, which occurred in 1970, he shares his experiences attending several colleges over the next decade, describing how he became a registered music therapist, completing a six-month internship at a mental health facility in Georgia. He then touches on his adult years in a variety of locations before finally getting married and settling down.

I liked the author’s description of how he was born and how his parents learned he was blind. For those of us who know that too much oxygen at birth causes blindness, the scene where his parents tell the doctor to do everything he can to save their child and the doctor puts baby David in a crude incubator so he can be transported to another hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit is a good foreshadowing of what’s to come. After that though, the author rushes through his life’s story with little dialog or interaction with others. He provides some detail on his music education, playing the piano for a living in various locations, his college experiences, his internship, and his job working with developmentally challenged clients in Florida, but it’s not enough. His book is divided into two parts with the first being about his life in general and the second being about a specific year in college. This doesn’t make sense.

I would like to have known more. What was it like for him to be mainstreamed in elementary school? Why did he choose to attend the state school for the blind, and why wasn’t he happy there? Having been a registered music therapist myself, I would like to have learned more about his experiences with his in-class practicum, internship, and how his work helped his clients. I realize his theme is “home,” but it doesn’t work. He has an interesting story but doesn’t draw his readers into it.

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Note: I submitted a portion of this review to Amazon, but they refuse to publish it. Here’s the reasaon I was given via email. “Our data shows elements of your Amazon account match elements of other Amazon accounts reviewing the same product.” I suspect what they actually mean is that they won’t publish the review  because it’s unfavorable. For this reason, I will no longer veview books on Amazon.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Thursday Book Feature: Reblog–Deliverance from Jericho

I read and reviewed this book several years ago. Recently, the author told me it’s now on Bookshare, an online service that makes books available in accessible formats for those like me with disabilities that prevent or make reading difficult. Since I haven’t had time to read anything new lately, I decided to post a link to this old review. Bruce is one of many children who had negative experiences at government-run schools for the blind in the U.S. and Canada before 1970. I hope you’ll find his story inspirational and thought-provoking.

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Deliverance from Jericho
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We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Review: The Paddy Stories: Book One

The Paddy Stories: Book One

by John Justice

Copyright 2016.

 

In Philadelphia in 1947, eight-year-old Paddy Flynn, who is blind, has lost his father as a result of World War II. He is then orphaned when his mother dies after a long illness. He spends time in a children’s home where he befriends a Japanese boy, who teaches him Judo, so he can stand up for himself when confronted by the home’s bully. He also develops a special bond with Lucy, another resident at the home.

Meanwhile, his uncle and aunt in Oakland, California, go through proceedings to adopt him. Once those arrangements are made, Paddy is sent to them by train. Along the way, he relies on the kindness of strangers, who travel with him most of the time. In California, his uncle and aunt, having no children, welcome him with open arms and treat him as if he were their own son. He eventually looks upon them as if they were his parents.

He adjusts to life with his new family, and by some miraculous twist of fate, he’s reunited with Lucy, but they are separated, temporarily, at the end of the book when Paddy is sent to the California school for the blind in Berkeley. The book also contains sub-plots involving other children and staff at the home in Philadelphia, but their stories end more happily than Paddy’s does.

When I first ran across this book, I thought it was for children, but further perusal told me otherwise. It tells the story of a little boy, and parents could read it to their children, but there are scenes that might not be appropriate for younger readers.

I met this book’s author, John Justice, through the Behind Our Eyes writers’ group, to which I belong. This book was produced by David and Leonore Dvorkin of Denver, Colorado, who are also helping me get My Ideal Partner published online. Leonore is quite the publicist. I probably wouldn’t have known about John’s book if she hadn’t mentioned it in almost every email message she sent me regarding my book.

I was prepared for a horror story about a poor little blind boy, beaten and taken advantage of in a society that held little respect for persons with disabilities, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even in the children’s home, where I expected a “Miss Hannagan” like in the movie, Annie, staff and other children were friendly and helpful. I was amazed when a nun showed up at the home and offered to ride with Paddy on the train to Chicago, where a local church formed a network of volunteers, who rode with Paddy in stages the rest of the way, until he reached his destination.

Of course no story would be a good one without conflict, and there’s plenty of that here: one bully at the children’s home, another on the train, and a third in California, not to mention the California school for the blind’s policy that all students must be residents at the school during the week. Paddy, though, is not one to be considered a poor little blind boy. When his mother became ill, she instilled in him the importance of being independent, knowing she wouldn’t be able to care for him much longer. He takes everything in stride, and although he cries himself to sleep in the California school’s dormitory at the end of the book, there’s a glimmer of hope. I’m looking forward to seeing what Book Two will bring.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems