Friday, July 13, 2012

From Grief to Celebration by Gary Bender, Reviewed by Megan Landmeier

From Grief to Celebration, How One Family Learned to Embrace the Gift of Down Syndrome by Gary Bender, Reviewed by Megan Landmeier
This post first appeared at My Stubborn Little Miss.

When Gary (Margaret) Bender emailed me and asked me if I'd like to give away a copy of her book on my blog, I was excited.  I'd read a few reviews on this site, and although I contribute here, I hadn't picked up Gary's book yet.

What first struck me about From Grief to Celebration was the fact that Gary is the parent of an older child with Down syndrome; her daughter Alex was 17 at the time the book was written.  While I loved Bloom and A Good and Perfect Gift, both books were written by parents of younger children.  Gary offers the distance and perspective years can bring.  The book is a fast read, and I read it on a flight as Ellie napped in the Bjorn.

From Grief to Celebration is based around ten verbs that Gary and her family contributed in processing Alex's Down syndrome diagnosis.  I appreciated Gary's story of receiving the news that Alex was not going to be the baby she expected, although that story is now a familiar one.  Gary's writing style is tight, and she gets to the point without becoming dry.  Her descriptions of advocating for Alex encouraged me, because I'm grateful for moms who have gone ahead of me to promote inclusion.

My favorite passage of the book was something that surprised me.  While I desire for Ellie to be included with her typical peers, I want her to find her place in the special needs community as well.  I want her to thrive.  In the chapter on "Include," Gary writes:

"What I didn't believe at the time, but know now, is that Alex shines when she's with other people with disabilities.  She can interact equally, both socially and competitively.  She feels genuine friendship, pride, and success."

Another mom of a child with special needs that I know has mentioned her daughter having "many circles," and I think Alex's social life as described by Gary reflects a bit of this.  School, general education, special education, Special Olympics, our local Down syndrome group - I want Ellie to find her place in each.

I would recommend From Grief to Celebration to any parent of a child with Down syndrome looking for a memoir that takes them farther down the road, beyond early childhood and into adolescence.

Megan Landmeier
Blog: My Stubborn Little Miss

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