by EMMA SCIANTARELLI
Most brothers and sisters have at least a degree of rivalry going as they vie for the attention of their parents. Now imagine if your sibling were handicapped. In Boy Alone, Karl Taro Greenfeld recounts what it was like to grow up with an autistic younger brother in America during the 1960s, when relatively very little was known about the disorder.
Autism is a brain development disorder that shows up in early childhood. The disorder affects physical, social, emotional, and mental growth in a child. Most sufferers lack communication skills and display obsessive-compulsive behaviour, such as repeating the words of others.
Noah was misunderstood by society, but his family went on a quest to search for cures and therapies to deal with the illness; all in vain. The constant choice their parents had to make was between providing stability for Karl and seeking answers for Noah. More often than not, Noah took precedence, leading to a childhood full of pain for Karl, the child who, unlike Noah, actually understood what was going on around him.
As I read this book, I wondered what it would be like to grow up the sibling of a mentally or physically handicapped child in Nepal. I am very close to a fourteen-year-old boy whose younger brother is deaf, mute and as a result of lack of access to proper care, mentally ill. Unlike Greenfeld's parents, who looked everywhere for an answer, leaving him to deal with his own inner turmoil, the fourteen-year-old I know, bears the bulk of responsibility for his brother. Little is still really done to support families in such situations, and by and large society still doesn't know how to react or what to do with mental or physical handicaps.
Boy Alone is an interesting read because it looks at the issue from an emotional, sociological and scientific angle. The reader feels sympathy for both Karl's painful adolescence and Noah's condition. And if the animosity Greenfeld bears towards his parents and his upbringing can be a little excessive at times, overall the book is worth a read.
1. ashtha, patan
touching, very very touching.
Posted on: 23 OCT 2009 | 11:08 AM NST | Report Abuse