Often there is no good answer to the question "why me?"
Joel Yanofsky, 46, an award-winning writer, asks that question when his only son, at age 4, is diagnosed with autism. Bad Animals, named for the book the younger Yanofsky creates at school, is the memoir of one year in both their lives. A year when the father searches for an answer to the eternal question and also an entry into his son’s world using the tools that have never previously failed him: books, movies, and shtick. Performed in a manner that is by turns humorous, tear-inducing, and inspirational, it is also a year that helps define an extraordinary love story between father and son.
Joel Yanofsky gives us the funny, heart-wrenching account of a year in the life of a father who struggles to enter his son’s world, the world of autism, using the materials he knows best, including self-help books, literary classics, and old movies.
Joel Yanofsky tried for years to start this memoir. “It’s not just going to be about autism,” he told his wife, Cynthia. “It’s going to be about parenthood and marriage, about hope and despair, and storytelling, too.”
“Marriage?” Cynthia said. “What about marriage?”
A veteran book reviewer, Yanofsky has spent a lifetime immersed in literature (not to mention old movies and old jokes), which he calls shtick. This account of a year in the life of a family describes a father’s struggle to enter his son’s world, the world of autism, using the materials he knows best: self-help books, feel-good memoirs, literary classics from the Bible to Dr. Seuss, old movies, and, yes, shtick. Funny, wrenching, and unfailingly candid, Bad Animals is both an exploration of a baffling condition and a quirky love story told by a gifted writer.
©2012 Joel Yanofsky. First published in Canada by Viking Canada, 2011 (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
At times I was upset with the writer's actions or words, but I was won over by his obvious love and concern, and by the great informative content of this book which shows the great efforts he makes to understand the situation and do all he can for his son. This is an honest memoir, if anything exaggerating the flaws of the writer. I will listen to this again, both because it is well worth listening to again, and also to see if i missed the moment when the author discovered/admitted his own status of "being on the spectrum". He clearly seems to be, which also makes this an interesting read - seeing the way his son, and especially his wife, deal with HIS behaviors. I remember him coming closest to making this explicit when discussing that his wife, having discovered techniques that work with the son, uses the same techniques with him.
To be repetitive, this is above all an honest narrative, and the writer is not afraid to make himself unlikeable, and we see a lot of the effects of autism on a family (extended) and a marriage. We see a lot about the "culture of autism" currently and historically, and get not only a great overview of therapeutic techniques and approaches, but many examples and specifics that make them much more understandable than much of the "instructive" literature does. It's also provides a great overview of autism-related literature; I sought out a number of other books compellingly discussed here. The author has conducted interviews with seminal autism writers and reports on their changes in attitude over the years. In the spirit of great historical literature, or works such as "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" or "Moby Dick", "Bad Animals" provides us with a tremendous amount of well-researched knowledge while we think we're just reading a story.
If I had to recommend just one book on autism spectrum disorders, this might be it...
I was looking for a memoir about parenting an autistic child, and got a memoir about being a lousy parent to an autistic child:okay, fair enough. But the narrator's whiny voice has made listening to this book a real chore.
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