Memoir, Nonfiction

Theme: Embracing Our Differences

This week I’m participating in an online nonfiction read-a-thon, so I will be getting out of my comfort zone a bit. Not that I don’t like nonfiction, but I’ve enjoyed creatively told stories a lot lately.

Which brings me to two books that I read today. Both address differences–dealing with them, owning them, and embracing them.

Visual Thinking, by Temple Grandin, has been on my radar for quite a while. Temple Grandin is a fascinating woman with a unique story. Born with Autism, she has used her differences in the way she absorbs and processes information to become a pioneer in animal behavior. Her work is mainly with the meat industry, making sure that animals raised for slaughter are humanely treated. Because she is a visual thinker, which she explains in the book, she notices details that others might miss.

The part that I thought was most profound is the way she describes the “screening out” of visual thinkers in the American education system. Thanks to different government movements in the name of “progress,” teachers are now forced to teach in such a linear way that students with diverse learning can easily get left behind. Speaking as a former teacher, I wholeheartedly agree. However, the book itself was a cumbersome read. There is a lot of repetition and spiraling in the way information is presented. It is broken up into chapters, but their content doesn’t seem as individual as you’d expect. Instead, it is more of the same over and over again. For that reason I can only give it a lukewarm 8/10 Stars.

Ugly, by Robert Hoge. The youngest of five children, Robert was born in Australia in 1972. The reasons are still unclear, but he came into this world with a large tumor above his nose and misshapen legs and feet. The tumor pushed his eyes far to each side, like a fish, making depth perception and balance difficult. His crooked legs and feet made walking impossible. Intellectually, though, Robert was born a bright and inquisitive child.

This memoir is marketed to readers of all ages and, because this world and the media are so unforgiving of people who look different, Ugly is an important book. After dozens of surgeries on his face, amputations of both feet, and adjusting to prosthetic legs, Robert lives a fairly “normal” life. His journey, one with pain and humor, is an inspiring one. His unusual appearance is the first thing you notice about him, but his attitude and sensitive nature are what you remember. This is a wonderfully well-written autobiography that I highly recommend. 9/10 Stars

***Both Temple Grandin and Robert Hoge are popular speakers on the TED Talk circuit and in other public speaking settings. You can easily find them on YouTube to hear more about their lives and experiences.

1 thought on “Theme: Embracing Our Differences”

  1. Great to see your reviews of these two books. I have been an admirer of Temple Grandin since you recommended her film biography…I have read two of her books and I’m amazed at what she has accomplished. I read “Thinking Pictures” and “Animals in Translation”. She has a deep sensitivity for all animals. Having had two autistic children in my classroom over the years gives me an extra sensitivity for Temple and admiration. I’m glad to hear Robert Hoge has been able to lead a somewhat “normal” life.

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