Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two Books

I plowed through Joan Ryan's The Water Giver this weekend in Tahoe, reading in the car, curled up in the bean bag by Abe's fire, on the deck in the cool fall air, and in bed late into the night.  It's the story of a mom getting a second chance at being a mother when her teenage son suffers a traumatic brain injury.  I keep thinking Joan Ryan is being just a little too tough on herself regarding how she parented her son before his injury.  I see myself in her parenting style both before and after the accident, so maybe I just need the validation that as imperfect as I am, I am doing the best I can.  To me, it seems like she was! Anyway, it's a beautifully written book and I just couldn't put it down. It got me thinking again about how I might write my story of becoming Oscar's mom. I have so much trouble getting started, always, because I don't know where I am going.  I've started now, every so barely, and I just need to keep on writing without having it all figured out. I'm hoping that will get clearer as I write.

I'm in the middle of my second writing class...another wonderful experience -- this time with Susan Ito. Once again there is more to read and write than I can manage, but my faithful interest barometer is telling me that this is what I want to be doing, even if there are so many distractions, always, in my life. I'm trying to learn to be patient with myself but I'm also going to try to get back to my Oscar story for my next workshop. I sidestepped that a bit and wrote about Ruby for my first workshop last week. I was so unhappy with that piece, to the point of run/walking for a few miles unable to think about anything but paper shredders.  Interestingly I cared less about sending it out to the group (a super encouraging group of writers led by Susan) than I did about how I felt about it, how it didn't say, yet, what I wanted it to say, how I wanted to say it.  In the end, though, with the great suggestions I got, I think I might go back to it eventually, or fold it in to something bigger about Oscar.  In other words, I survived.

The other great book I am reading is a kid's book -- Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko.  I am reading it aloud to Abe.  It's been sitting on his shelf for three years now, ever since my friend who also has a child with PWS got it for her older daughter.  He wasn't ready for it then, but is now and keeps reading ahead of me.  He listens again while I read aloud the sections he's already read, so I think he's enjoying it as much as I am.  The main character, Moose, is a 12 year old boy who lives on Alcratraz in 1935 with his parents and his sister Natalie, who these days would be diagnosed with autism. It's intense at times -- Moose's mom is set on trying everything she can to help Natalie, so their world revolves around her needs.  Moose is forced to give up his own interests and often ends up in charge of Natalie while his Dad works two jobs on Alcatraz and his mom teaches piano in San Francisco.  Moose's love for and shame about his sister are authentically written and I am sure Abe can see himself in Moose.  (Certainly helps that Moose is also a baseball fanatic!) Moose shoulders way more burden for his sister than I ever intend for Abe...I'm trying to feel Abe out about this, but I think he is still processing. I wonder if there is a guide that accompanies this book, or suggestions for dialogue somewhere. Usually Abe and I can have some frank discussions about disability and siblings...my rule has always been that he can say anything to me, but just not in front of Oscar.  I hope this is a book we can go back to, if he's not ready yet, and talk about later.  In any case, I like where I see this book going in terms of an emerging acceptance and support of Natalie by even this mostly unlikely community on Alcratraz.


  1. I admire what you are doing. I think you'll find one step leading to another, and soon your story will come alive.

    The book recommendations sound intriguing...

  2. When I first started writing about my daughter and being her mother, I was in a writing workshop. I didn't know that I had a "book" until I was well into writing a lot of "pieces." I think you should just write pieces and then wait and see what happens, what shape the pieces take. When you're done with a piece, let it be done, at least for a bit and write another one.

    And we loved that Al Capone book -- I had forgotten about it!

  3. Sometimes writing takes a while to come together. I have a children's story that I wrote that never really worked. Ten years later I realized the theme was really based on adult perspective and it would work better as an essay or part of an adult novel. I kind of let it go, but recently I've revisited it in relation to my experience with Henry and found new life it in. I may do something with it yet. Enjoy the process—I look forward to reading more about it.