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An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son's Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art Hardcover – September 6, 2011


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An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son's Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art + The Girl Who Spoke with Pictures: Autism Through Art + Drawing Autism
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sterling (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402774036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402774034
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Debra Chwast received a master's in social work and worked as a therapist for 33 years. When Seth was diagnosed with autism at 21 months, Debra threw herself into an 18-year attempt to bring Seth into our world. After Seth discovered painting, she produced a short documentary on Seth titled A Different Kind of Journey, which was accepted into the Ohio Independent Film Festival in 2004, and shown on WVIZ PBS. Debra is now Seth's manager, travel agent, promoter and-literally-his voice. She speaks to large groups, participates in panels on autism, and provides keynote addresses about her life with Seth. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
 
Seth Chwast's unique works of art reflect his vision of the world. He has exhibited at Penn State College of Medicine, University Hospitals of Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the United Nations. His love of travel led to exhibitions in Galapagos, the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Curaçao. His enormous mural Manhattan Floating decorates the lobby of the Time Equities building in NYC. See www.SethChwastArt.com.

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Customer Reviews

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Thank you for sharing your story.
Elle
We are inundated with so many bad stories about autism, this book is a sheer delight to read.
Debra Hosseini
Debra Chwast's book is a beautiful story of hope and love!
Shari Goldberg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Adams Marks on December 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am an artist, teacher and mother who first learned of Seth and Debra Chwast on the Today Show. Inspired by Debra's tenacious spirit, passionate resilience and commitment to the discovery of her son's brilliance as an artist who is autistic, I immediately emailed Seth and Debra for permission to share their story and Seth's artwork with my middle school art students. Each semester since January 2008, my students have researched Seth's website, watched the videos about his journey, analyzed his paintings and often shared their own stories of friends and family who struggle with the anxiety and stress of living with a loved one diagnosed with autism. Finally they created their own animal paintings, not only informed by Seth's sensitivity to color, shape and form, but also to his ability to see, hear and process the space between the lines. While Seth and Debra's journey may be very different than other parents who have an autistic child, there is a strong common thread that binds all who struggle against misunderstanding, ridicule and fear of the unknown. As an educator who often works with students who are autistic, I recommend "An Unexpected Life" to anyone who seeks a world beyond apprehension and darkness, beyond the bleak wall of denial, to a celebration of life and a kaleidoscope of possibilities. ~ Elizabeth Adams-Marks, St. Louis, MO
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By susan haskell on September 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Debra Chwast's amazing journey with her 28-year-old autistic son, Seth, is beautifully described in this memoir, which spans the years from Seth's diagnosis around age 2 to the present. Debra never let up on the search for things to give meaning and purpose to Seth's life, as well as her own, and when she discovered his artistic ability at age 20, developing that talent became the focus of their lives. Seth has continued to paint and now travels and exhibits internationally. What could have been a very limited and frustrating life for both Debra and Seth, has instead become an interesting and fulfilling one. This is a very moving and inspiring book, filled with Seth's vibrant paintings and sculptures, and it is a story that should give hope to others who are challenged by adversity.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hosseini on February 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
An Unexpected Life could be my story too! Debra Chwast has a beautiful voice about her relationship with her autistic son, Seth. Seth is an amazing artist who I became aware of a few years ago when compiling my own book featuring artists on the spectrum. What most impressed me about Debra and Seth's journey was how she evolved as a person through her child. My son, Kevin, is also on the spectrum and a gifted artist. I can relate to the effort it takes on the mom's part and how her life has now become tied forever to her son. I've witnessed so many moms who have changed careers, split with their husbands, and have similar experiences to Debra. I also relate to her spiritual journey and her evolved understanding of autism. For a different perspective, read this book. We are inundated with so many bad stories about autism, this book is a sheer delight to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By melissa m. o'grady on July 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This review has to begin with my disclaimer: I personally know Debra and Seth, though we aren't close friends.

I didn't know what to expect from Debra's book. She's a kind, generous person who loves Seth more than life itself, but I wondered if she could bring that forth in print.

She can. At one point she writes, "There is no single way to capture the essense of Seth." But on every page, she does. She is not secretive about Seth needing constant companionship, or as she explains someone who will keep Seth safe at all times. He cannot be alone in the house, he cannot eat alone or paint alone. But (and I was so curious about this), his paintings are 100% Seth. His artist mentors, usually art students and young working artists, do not touch his canvases. They guide him verbally and with samples of other artists' work. But she also captures his personality: how he gets focused on things, how he talks to people and remembers them months or years later, and how he gets "gleeful" with painting, music, and travelling.

And Seth really is a gifted artist: the book is gorgeous with color plates of his paintings, sculptures, and drawing. These alone make it feel like a museum catalog or a coffee table art book.

Debra does an excellent job describing how Seth has informed her life. She is a devoted mother, agent, travel agent, supporter, and giver of life. She is honest about her own health issues (this was news to me!) without being self-pitying. Travel is often difficult for her, but it's what she loves second only to Seth. Debra is willing to try anything and everything, just to see if it will work, whether it's for her own well-being, or for Seth's. The thing that most comes through her writing is how full of wonder she is.
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