Exiting Nirvana by Clara Claireborne Park

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Exiting Nirvana by Clara Claireborne Park

Postby Dani » Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:07 pm

This book is a continuation from "The Siege" also written by the same author. The Siege covered the first eight years of the Park's daughter, Jesse. Exiting Nirvana covers Jesse's teenage and adult years. This book was written ages ago so a reader has to be mindful that while the Parks did the best they could, there are a lot more services and therapies available today for kids on the spectrum.

Park has an odd way of writing. I can't say I like her style. You would expect the book to have a linear progression covering Jesse's development from adolescence to adulthood. However, the book doesn't follow such an orderly progression. The book is organized in chapters like "Thinking", "Talking", "Painting", "Living", etc. A good portion of the book is devoted to Jesse's fascination with numbers, but the detailed information in that section is unnecessary and confusing. It would have been better to organize the book in chronological order rather than by topic matter.

By all accounts, Jesse has come far. She can read and write. She can speak, but she doesn't speak as well as most high-functioning autistic people. She has a full-time job in a mail room. She does all the cooking and cleaning at home. She pays her taxes, balances her checkbook, takes care of herself. But there is so much lacking in the book. Park doesn't talk much about Jesse's negative qualities. The reader also doesn't learn about Jesse's interactions with her neurotypical siblings. The family has pets, but you don't know how she interacts with them. Park glosses and idealizes Jesse's state of happiness. I can't count the number of times Park talks about how happy Jesse is. I have no reason to doubt that. However, Park, at times, puts down higher-functioning autistic people who have careers and who have made more progress than Jesse by saying they aren't as content as her daughter. I don't know about that. Temple Grandin, autistic and professor, seems pretty happy to me!

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