Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dancing With Max by Emily Colson

Where I got the book - a review copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program. Which is a great way to try out books you wouldn't necessarily buy, by the way. Give it a go.

I have a developmentally disabled child, and found myself nodding in understanding as I was reading Dancing With Max, Colson's account of what she has learned from life with her autistic son. The memoir also touches briefly on her childhood and her father Chuck Colson, who was implicated in the Watergate scandal, became a Christian in jail, and went on to become a well-known author and speaker. He writes the prologue and epilogue to the book, presumably to give it more heft in Christian circles. I'm not sure that was a good decision. Emily Colson's account stands quite nicely on its own, in my opinion.

And yet there's a fitting parallel between Colson's youth, living with the stigma of her father's very public jail sentence, and the feelings of humiliation and high visibility that she recounts when she describes what it's like having a child who melts down regularly in public. "It's remarkable how quickly space clears around you when your autistic child explodes in public. I tried not to care about the people staring at us. . . . I tried not to lose an ounce of energy to humiliation."

Colson's faith is evident in Dancing With Max, but she doesn't overemphasize it. Her tone is matter-of-fact and down to earth, and her theme - that Max brings out the best in people who have the best in them - does not need a faith-based filter to work.

I enjoyed Colson's writing, which is unpretentious and easy to read. I would recommend this book to anyone trying to understand more about the autism spectrum.

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