A Brother's Memoir
By Karl Taro Greenfeld
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061136665, 368pp.)
Publication Date: May 2009
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Karl Taro Greenfeld knew from an early age that his little brother, Noah, was not like other children. He couldn't crawl, and he had trouble making eye contact or interacting with his family. As Noah grew older, his differences became even more pronounced—he was unable to communicate verbally, use the toilet, or tie his shoes, and despite his angelic demeanor, he often had violent outbursts.
No doctor, social worker, or specialist could pinpoint what was wrong with Noah beyond a general diagnosis: autism. The boys' parents, Josh and Foumi, dedicated their lives to caring for their younger son with myriad approaches—a challenging, often painful experience that the devoted father detailed in a bestselling trilogy of books.
Now, for the first time, acclaimed journalist Karl Taro Greenfeld speaks out about growing up in the shadow of his autistic brother, revealing the complex mix of rage, confusion, and love that defined his childhood. Boy Alone is his brutally honest memoir of the hopes, dreams, and realities of life with a mentally disabled sibling.
Seamlessly weaving together the social history of autism and autism research—as the Greenfelds lived through it in seeking treatment for Noah—with the deeply affecting story of two very different boys growing up side by side, this book raises crucial philosophical questions: Can relationships exist without language? How should aging parents care for a nonverbal, violent child, and then a grown man who is not self-sufficient? Is there anything that can be done to help an extremely autistic child or adult become a member of mainstream society?
Haunting, tragic, and unforgettable, this chronicle of autism is a beautiful, wholly original exploration of what it means to be a family, a brother, and a person.
Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of China Syndrome, Standard Deviations, and Speed Tribes. He is the former editor of Time Asia and editor-at-large for Sports Illustrated. His writing has appeared in numerous Best American anthologies, including Best American Short Stories 2009. He lives in California with his wife and two daughters.
- Who is the boy in the title?
-Suki Casanave, Washington Post