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! 📚