For Autism Awareness Month, we’re giving away one paperback copy of this book! Read on to the end for more info.
Love You to Pieces is a collection of literary writings from parents who are struggling with the various issues that come with parenting a child with special needs. Parents of children with autism are the most represented in this book, but the writings here cover a sweeping range of challenges from cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, Down Syndrome, deafness, communication issues, and much more to rarer conditions such as Angelman’s syndrome.
In here you will find both the expression of our common challenges as parents and the unique voices of families and their children. The stories and poems are arranged mostly in order by chronological age of the children in the writings, the early ones being about birth and infancy and the later about the path to adulthood. In doing so, the editor – Suzanne Kamata – has woven these individual stories into a grand whole that will stay with you long after you finish the book.
I almost without fail love this type of book. When parents and families tell their stories, I listen. I feel inspired, wiser, more educated, and less alone when I do. Of the books in this genre, I think Love You to Pieces is among the best.
Whereas books of the Chicken Soup or Cup of Comfort series lean heavily toward inspiration and triumph, Love You to Pieces unflinchingly drives straight for the emotional core of what it means to be a parent of a child with special needs. This isn’t a how-to book or a manual of tips and tricks. This is a roller-coaster you won’t forget.
The quality of the writing is superb. The writers do an astounding job drawing you into their stories and emotionally involving you in their lives. And it’s not a glossed-over version of events either. The rose-colored glasses are nowhere to be found. There is pure, unfiltered truth at every turn. Truth can lead to triumph, joy, desperation, hopelessness, and everything in between, and these stories take you to all of them and through every hard-fought step along the way.
They regularly left me with shortened breath, quickened pulse, and in some cases gripped by an all-to-familiar fear. Many of their emotions have been mine at one point, and for some others it’s a close enough walk from my experience to theirs that imagining what they must feel like isn’t hard to do. In those cases where I don’t have that frame of reference, the writers expertly drew me in and gave me enough glimpses into their lives to blow me away.
There are more than two dozen entries in this book, but to mention a few by name, “Coming to Samsara” is a perfectly written story of a mother who gave birth to severely premature twins at 23 weeks. It’s an emotionally wrenching journey full of sadness and beauty and coming to terms with all in life that is beyond our control.
In a book filled with gut-level honesty, “Magic Affinities” may be the most unflinching of them all. To give any of it away might reduce its impact, but I will say that it is a story that will stay with you forever. (A bit of warning – if your child engages in self-injurious behaviors, you may want to be careful with this one and read it on a calmer day.)
“Lives of the Saints” elevates everyday challenges and conflicts to the level of spiritual journey – not the ethereal, pie-in-the-sky, sweet-by-and-by kind, but one much more rooted in real life. Comprised of a series of snapshots into their family’s life, conflict and tension build without resolution. Its ending may feel unsatisfying at first, but you come to realize that there simply are no clean beginnings, endings, or resolutions on this path we’re on.
The poems are masterful as well. “Form and Void” for me captures the beauty-filled moments we have had blowing bubbles with our son. This poem finds magic and perfection in this simple act. “‘Severe Language Delay’: In the Kitchen with My Three-Year-Old” reads like a poetic transcript of my brain sometimes and should resonate with all of us who desperately try to understand what our children are trying to communicate to us. And for all of us who worry about what our children’s lives will be like as adults, pieces like the poem “Victoria’s Wedding” stand for the grieving visions of our children’s futures we are reluctant to admit we sometimes have.
If you only recently received a diagnosis for your child, this may not be the book for you yet. It’s hard to bring the raw emotions of those early days into contact with similarly visceral stories and not be overwhelmed. However I do think at some point or another that Love You to Pieces should be required reading for parents. But the goal of these stories and poems is not to drag us into uncomfortable places simply for the sake of doing so. These authors encourage us to acknowledge the emotions and thoughts we deem too awful or painful to speak aloud because so often they are common to all of us on this journey. They lead us deeper into ourselves to reveal the truths inside us, whatever those may be. And only when we shine light on them do we free ourselves to be the parents we want to be.
Want to win a copy? To enter your name in the drawing for the book, please share the title of a book you like that contains stories or poems from parents of special needs children, a parent’s memoir, or a link to a personal story written by a parent that you found particularly powerful and that is available online.
But no affiliate links! We’ll hold the drawing on April 30th.
While this is optional, we like to know where people are from, so if you don’t mind, please considering including what state (if in the U.S., or province in Canada) or country you’re from. Make sure the e-mail address you fill in works so I can notify you if your name is chosen. Thanks!