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Cover for A Slant of Sun

A Slant of Sun

One Child's Courage

Beth Kephart


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At a time when as many as one in five children face the challenge of growing up with a behavioral disorder, more and more parents are finding themselves at a loss to know how best to raise their children.

For Beth Kephart’s son, the diagnosis was "pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified"—a broad spectrum of difficulties, including autistic features. As the author and her husband discover, all that label really means is that their son Jeremy is "different in a million wonderful ways, and also different in ways that need our help."

In intimate, incandescent prose, Kephart shares the painful and inspiring experience of loving a child whose "special needs" bring tremendous frustration and incalculable rewards. "What, in the end, are you fighting for: Normal?" Kephart asks. "Is normal possible? Can it be defined? . . . And is normal superior to what the child inherently is, to what he aspires to, fights to become, every second of his day?"

With the help of passionate parental involvement and the kindness of a few open hearts, Jeremy slowly emerges from a world of obsessive play rituals, atypical language constructions, endless pacing, and lonely frustrations. Triumphantly, he begins to engage others, describe his thoughts and passions, build essential friendships. Ultimately this is a story of the shallowness of medical labels compared to a child's courage and a mother's love, of which Kephart writes, "Nothing erodes it. It is not sand on a beach. It is the nuclear heart of things—hard as the rock of this earth."

Praise For A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage

It’s so hard, this parenting project. Every kid is different, every parent is different, and the boxes we’re permitted so confining. Every difference diagnosed; every variation a treatment problem. And in spite of it all, parents do muddle through, and children do grow, unfold, become their own true selves, as we reach towards and finally to them—as Beth Kephart reaches toward Jeremy and Jeremy toward the world.

— Barbara Katz Rothman, author of In Labor, Recreating Motherhood, and The Tentative Pregnancy

Beautifully written, absorbing and moving. A highly talented mother affords us precious insight into her son’s extraordinary progression from autistic features to giftedness.
— Bernard Rimland, M.D., Director, Autism Research Institute

We may teach our children to read, but they teach us the language of the spirit. In these sterling essays, Beth Kephart listens with her soul. In clear, incandescent prose, she invites us to defy probability along with her, to learn the meaning of faith and the navigation of the everyday, to understand the labels and break through them. A Slant of Sun is a luminous gift in the lives of all who love the ‘special’ child, or any child at all.

— Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Shelter

A triumph of writing and of the human spirit. This moving, suspenseful, brave, and daring book belongs with the classics. To read it is to experience first-hand the redemptive power of love.

— Kim Chernin, author of My Life As a Boy

I’ve always though ‘different’ a sad euphemism when it was applied to children with problems, but Beth Kephart has undone my every preconception. Her desperate, loving journey through uncharted territory is ultimately so moving and hope-affirming (without a moment of sappy ‘uplift’) that I was overwhelmed by it. By helping her son out of his silence, putting words on these pages, Kephart redeems all of us from reading any diagnosis as certain doom.

— Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393340983, 256pp.

Publication Date: June 17, 1998

About the Author

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of a memoir trilogy. She has written about writing and the imagination for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and Parenting. She lives in Devon, Pennsylvania.