Last night I went to a book club meeting with a coworker. The book was Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio. What I liked about the book was the opening of a character with tourette syndrome, we get to see how she tries to understand her disorder as she grows up. The time period is the 1950’s and the book really does delve into the education process for someone who was “altered,” as many of Icy’s classmates said.
I could tell you, voracious readers, about the quirky characters, because there are some good ones with names like Peavy Lawson and Maizy Hurley. I could tell you about the writing style or the backwoods setting of Kentucky. But I’m not going to. You can read all that for yourself. I’ve linked the book title above to Goodreads. And you can go buy or rent the book yourself and read that too. I encourage you to, it’ll be good. Read it out loud so you can better hear the appalachian accents. What I can’t provide for you so readily is the exact experience of the book club meeting I had last night. I mean it was good. I thought going into this, maybe I’ll make a few meetings here and there, we’ll talk about the book for two hours, no more I hope. I needed to get home and write up a review for it!
Well, dear reader, that review would have been very different had I not attended that book club meeting, which mind you, lasted for almost 4 hours! And in all that time, we discussed the actual book only a little. And yet I left feeling so stimulated, is that a strange word? LOL. To say I enjoyed myself, seemed too simple. It was a great dialogue. I wish I’d taken notes so I could remember more of what we discussed!
Let me set the scene for you. Wisconsin yesterday, freezing pouring rain, a map to a stranger’s house drawn in pencil, and my car with with a dying left blinker. I arrive at the host’s house and scurry in under an umbrella. We have a mini tour of her all too beautiful home. (All the while I’m thinking, I could never host this meeting, these women are all retirees who’ve lived in these homes for years and made them their own! My house looks like a retro 70’s fixer-upper, comprised of my boyfriend’s music paraphrenalia, orange carpeting, orange tile, and odd “knick-knacks” I’m not allowed to throw away.) There are only 6 of us, the wine is poured, we eat daintily assembled toothpicks of fresh fruit and delicious puff pastries with cream cheese and bacon in them. The book discussion begins.
Ok, last night, I was able to discuss this book with three former teachers, ranging from elementary to college, and two nurses. Talk about gold mine of knowledge! They brought so much to the table. We discussed cognitive and physical disorders in the school system, how they’re handled, the improvements over the years, where opportunities still are. And since I was the youngest member by a good 30 years, they certainly topped me with their history of how things have progressed. In the book, Icy spends time in a children’s asylum, and I thought that was really interesting. Throughout the book, she doesn’t really have friends her age, even there, her best friends are the aides and the doctor. It was interesting to hear from everyone what their experiences were growing up with people of different abilities. Many of the women at the group said they never saw them. They knew these people existed but they were often segregated into “colonies” or separate schools. One woman said her mother took her to one of the institutions when she was 12 to walk the halls and explain that the individuals inside these walls were people too, and she needed to know they were there. The same woman later replied, “It’s amazing any of us were born normal.” We all laughed, but it makes sense, with so many (I think increasing) numbers of chromosomal alterations and knowledge about water supplies, mercury levels, etc. I think we’re seeing more children born with disorders than we ever had before. And since my friends at the book club came from medical backgrounds, we also discussed child immunization and looked at a chart showing how many shots kids have before they’re 5 years old. Each of us there had a different experience in school and how we were introduced to a person of varying ability, and we agreed that things have mainstreamed more now. Where possible, schools are trying to blend classrooms and do what’s best for the children. Certainly, there are some who succeed more than others. What a rich conversation this was.
And then we talked about religion! Ha! There is a scene in the book where Icy and her grandma go to a revival, and it’s pretty intense. This sparked up more conversation about people’s experiences and cultural beliefs.
I’ll leave you with two things. 1.) If you’re involved with a book club, this is a great group read. I’ll admit I thought it had a slow start, but the discussions it “sparked” where well worth having. 2.) Start a dialogue with me! I want more!! I’m a born-again reader! And I’m curious. What has your experience been with people who have cognitive or physical disorders? Did you ever have them in your classroom? Your family? How were they treated? Do you think there is a rise in disorders like autism, asperger’s, dyslexia, maybe even down’s? Do you agree with the statement “It’s amazing any of us were born normal”?