Celebrate “Difference”

Reading about Unbound in early spring, I knew it was a story I needed to read.  I wanted to see how this gut-wrenching, true-life story would be shown.  What a book!  Written by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, it tells the story of Joyce and her twin sister, Judith.  They are two peas in a pod.  They do everything together until kindergarten.  Joyce goes to school.  Judy stays home.  Judy, readers discover, has what will later be called Down Syndrome and the school that Joyce goes to cannot meet her needs.

Around the time of the twin’s seventh birthday, Joyce wakes up to find Judy missing.  Their dad had taken her to the state school to live and learn.  On that day, Joyce reports, the colors leave leave her world.

After thirty-five years, Joyce is able to become Judy’s legal guardian.  Judy is able to leave the institution behind and live with Joyce’s family.   Joyce takes her to the Creative Growth Center and enrolls her in classes.  This center is devoted to serving artist with disabilities of all kinds.  It takes time, but eventually Judy finds her medium.  She becomes a world renowned fiber artist.  For thirty years she creates and shares her joy and resilience with the world.

In the author’s note Joyce writes:  ” Wherever we live, we find many people who are a bit “different” in one way of another.  These individuals, because of their differences, are often thought of as being less than those of us who consider ourselves “normal.”  They are often kept at a distance, not included in the everydayness of our lives – sharing laughter, and meals, bus rides and work, cozy couch time and a welcome night’s sleep.  Because they are not valued, their unseen strengths and gifts often go unrecognized, unexplored and undiscovered.”

These words are true for Myron Uhiberg’s story too.  Reading The Sound of Silence ~ Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents by Myron Uhlberg filled me with respect and wonder for him, and guilt and disappointment for me and the society I am a part of.  There is such incredible strength shared within these pages of this book.  Myron’s story of growing up in the 30’s and 40’s is sometimes funny and other times heartbreaking.  His first language was American Sign Language.  It was how he spoke at home.  No one outside the deaf community communicated with his parents, so Myron found himself in the middle, between the deaf world and the hearing world.  He was the translator during Teacher/Parent conferences.  He was the one who got help when his brother has a seizure.  He was also the one who heard how cruelly and disrespectfully his father is treated at his job. It is a burden to carry and yet he does it. 

These two books – true stories – shine a light on the changes that have been made for the disabled community in our country.  I don’t feel satisfied and I can’t help but wonder what more I can and should be doing so that even more voices can sing and all of our lives can be enriched by hearing those songs.

Here are some other books you might enjoy that connect to the theme of celebrating “difference.”





Research has shown that reading literary fiction helps develop empathy.  Readers walk beside the characters of tightly written stories growing our capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.  Reading helps you dream of possible futures.  These books can help us  grow our understanding so that, as Maya Angelou reminds us, we can “do the best we can until we know better.  Then when we know better, we can do better.” 

Let’s all be better.  If you have another title to add to this collection, please leave your suggestion in a comment,  Thanks.

Happy Reading! 📚

Books Lead to Hope

It was been a strange year and a half.  I don’t think anyone can argue that.  There have been many challenges ~ I’m getting used to the isolation … he’s so stressed … she’s a little more clingy, but I guess that’s predictable … I’m just so weary.  There have also been many opportunities ~ I’ve had time to slow down and think … she’s discovered a new passion … he’s spent lots of time adventuring in the woods … I have different options now than I had before.

Reading, “I don’t know if I can begin again” in my friend’s email last week made me think more closely about recent past, and what the future will offer.  I tried to think of ways to share HOPE with her.  Of course I thought of book….  How can books help?  Where can we find glimmers of light and sparks of joy to lighten our burdens and change our perspective.

Amanda Gordon was certainly a beacon of hope when I first “met” her at the inauguration.  Her new book, Change Sings, illustrated by Loren Long is a call to action.  Each step and action, no matter how large or small makes a difference.  We can change the world as long as we don’t “fear change coming” and choose to “sing along.”  This gorgeous book celebrates hope, music and care.  Each time I read it I discover something new.  What will you find when you read it?  What will you hear as you listen to the music of change?  How will this book lead you into your future?

I discovered the positivity of Chloe Wade in her books  Heart Talk and Where to Begin a few years ago.  When I learned of her new picture book, What the Road Said, I suspected it would be a good one.  It is. This book, all about life’s choices, is for readers of every age and every stage of the quest.  We are all on a road and in every second of our journey there are myriad options to take.  What can we do?  How will it go?  This book is hopeful, encouraging and realistic.  Each page offers advice and comfort.  Here are two:

WHICH WAY DO I GO?  That is your choice to make, said the Road.  BUT WHAT IF I GO THE WRONG WAY?  The Road curved a little, almost as if it was giving me a hug, and said, Do not worry.  Sometimes we go the wrong way to the right way.  WHAT IF I GET SCARED?  That is okay.  You are brave, said the Road.  BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BRAVE? I asked, The Road guided me through a very gloomy forest.  Even though I was frightened, I trusted the Road, and as I took one step, and then another step after that, the Road gently whispered, Being brave is when you are afraid of doing something, but you do it anyway.  Do not let what scares you keep from continuing on your path …

Be Strong by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hall looks at strength from many different angles.  Strength climbs rock walls.  Strength helps others when life is tough.  Strength keeps promises.  Strength makes things happen.  Strength can guide you toward making your world a better place.  “Together we can be strong.”

Finally, I Am Courage ~ A book of Resilience by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter Reynolds is an exploration of bravery.  The end flap shares: “…real courage comes from feeling scared and facing what challenges us anyway.  When our minds tell us “I can’t,” we can look inside ourselves and find the strength to say, “Yes, I CAN!”

These books have all been published in the last six months.  It can’t be a coincidence.  Clearly we are searching for words of encouragement, sparks of joy and glimmers of hope.  What books add light to your life?  If you don’t mind, share them in a comment so we can grow this list.  Books like this are a comfort.

Happy Reading! 📚