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Cover for Reasonable People

Reasonable People

A Memoir of Autism and Adoption

Ralph James Savarese


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"Why would someone adopt a badly abused, nonspeaking, six-year-old from foster care?" So the author was asked at the outset of his adoption-as-a-first-resort adventure. Part love story, part political manifesto about "living with conviction in a cynical time," the memoir traces the development of DJ, a boy written off as profoundly retarded and now, six years later, earning all "A's" at a regular school. Neither a typical saga of autism nor simply a challenge to expert opinion, Reasonable People illuminates the belated emergence of a self in language. And it does so using DJ's own words, expressed through the once discredited but now resurgent technique of facilitated communication. In this emotional page-turner, DJ reconnects with the sister from whom he was separated, begins to type independently, and explores his experience of disability, poverty, abandonment, and sexual abuse. "Try to remember my life," he says on his talking computer, and remember he does in the most extraordinarily perceptive and lyrical way.

Asking difficult questions about the nature of family, the demise of social obligation, and the meaning of neurological difference, Savarese argues for a reasonable commitment to human possibility and caring.

Praise For Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption

Publishers Weekly

Savarese writes with passion and humor, careful to include extensive excerpts from DJ's typing, so readers get a sense of his remarkable growth.

Library Journal

...readers will find the elements documenting the foster care system worthwhile.

The Autism Acceptance Project Newsletter

This is... a story about what life is all about: trial, error, perseverance, and faith in people. Faith in love. Ralph, Emily and DJ give us that, and much more.


Savarese’s careful melding of memoir and passionate advocacy for the disabled informs and inspires.


That [Reasonable People] manages to avoid both polemic and cliché is reason enough to applaud.


By the end of Savarese's moving memoir, DJ is in sixth grade and getting all "A's" at regular school... "They think well-respected, tested-as-normal kids are the OK-to-teach ones," writes DJ [in the book's final chapter]. "They forget these lost kids." Perhaps this book will help others remember they are more than worth the effort


A moving memoir, it calls for "living with conviction in a cynical time."

Other Press, 9781590511299, 496pp.

Publication Date: May 17, 2007

About the Author

Ralph James Savarese

Poet, essayist, translator, and scholar, Ralph James Savarese teaches American literature and creative writing at Grinnell College. He lives in Grinnell, Iowa.