Seeing Ezra is the soulful, beautifully written memoir of a mother’s fierce love for her autistic son, and a poignant examination of what it means to be “normal.” When Kerry Cohen’s son Ezra turns one, a babysitter suggests he may be “different,” setting her family on a path in which autism dominates their world. As he becomes a toddler and they navigate the often rigid and prescriptive world of therapy, Cohen is unsettled by the evaluations they undergo: At home, Ezra is playfully expressive, sharing profound, touching moments of connection and intimacy with his mother and other family members, but in therapy he is pathologized, prodded to behave in ways that undermine his unique expression of autism.
It soon becomes clear that more is at stake than just Ezra’s well-being; Cohen and her marriage are suffering as well. Ezra’s differentness, and the strain of pursuing varied therapies, takes a toll on the family—Cohen’s husband grows depressed and she pursues an affair—all as she tries to help others recognize and embrace Ezra’s uniqueness rather than force him to behave outside his comfort level. It isn’t until they abandon the expected, prescriptive notions about love, marriage, and individuality that they are able to come back together as two parents who fiercely love their little boy.
Powerful and eye-opening, Seeing Ezra is an inspirational chronicle of a mother’s struggle to protect her son from a system that seeks to compartmentalize and “fix” him, and of her journey toward accepting and valuing him for who he is—just as he is.
I’m learning that the more personal a book is to me, the harder it is to review it. Seems like it should make it easier, but it doesn’t. I don’t totally agree with Ms. Cohen on some things, but that doesn’t make the book any less impactful. I finished this book four days ago, but I couldn’t find the words to write a review.
At first, I found it hard to relate to her because when she first started seeking help for her son, she didn’t want anyone to think badly of him, so she didn’t tell the doctors and therapists everything they needed to know to properly evaluate him. I’m a straight-up kind of gal, and I figure that even if the “experts” don’t have all the answers, they can’t help us if they don’t know what’s going on. Eventually, though, she moved past that. She came to a point at which she could tell the doctors everything, but she didn’t hesitate to get up and walk out if their needs weren’t being met. That’s my kind of mom.
The question Ms. Cohen keeps repeating in her book is one that I think every parent of a special-needs child faces. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is on alternative therapies, or curing autism. The most important thing is: Where is the line between helping him with the areas where the world feels hard for him and negating who he is?
There is some foul language in this book, but don’t let that stop you. It always helps me to read about how other moms are dealing with challenges. Not only do I usually learn something, it helps me to not feel so alone. (No matter how much support we have, I think sometimes we all feel like no one else knows what it’s like.)
About this book
Title: Seeing Ezra: A Mother’s Story of Autism, Unconditional Love, and the Meaning of Normal
Author: Kerry Cohen
Publisher: Seal Press
Release date: August 30, 2011
Where I got this book: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.