Today we walked over to the local Baskin Robbins with our friends Joel Yanofsky, Cynthia Davis and their delightful son Jonah. Thanks to Joel, all three of them have become celebrities. That's because his new book Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism is as much about Cynthia and Jonah as it is about Joel.
I finished reading the book last night (first I had to wrestle it away from my husband, who plays poker and watches baseball games with Joel)). One of the nice things about knowing someone whose book you happen to be reading is that you can call the person up and say, "Hey, I just cracked up at one of your jokes" or "That part was really deep." So, several times while I was reading Bad Animals, I phoned Joel or e-mailed him; I even "facebooked" him last night.
There are lots of things I loved about this book. Number is one is that it is painfully honest, but also that it's often laugh-out-loud funny. And I also love that the book is not just about the challenges of raising an autistic child, it's also about marriage and writing books and finding the strength you need to get through rough times.
In the book, Joel refers to many other books, especially memoirs, that have explored the subject of autism. He concludes that, "The uninspiring everydayness of living with autism, its routine weirdness, its unbearable bearableness, its incremental ups and downs, is what so often goes unstated. Memoirs skip this part." To Joel's credit, he doesn't skip "this part." But he does far more than that, too. Mostly, if you ask me, Bad Animals is a kind of love song to the two people Joel loves most.
And hey, blog readers, I didn't forget about you today! While I was walking to the ice cream parlour with Joel, I asked him to tell me one of his tricks for writing such moving creative non-fiction, and he told me something I knew you'd love -- and that would get you thinking all week. Here goes: "You have to make the truth feel more true than it really is -- which sometimes requires lying."