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Boy Alone: A Brother's Memoir Hardcover – May 12, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061136662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061136665
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sibling rivalry—and love—of a ravaging kind is the subject of this unsparing memoir of the author's life with his severely autistic brother. Journalist Greenfeld (Standard Deviations) describes his brother, Noah, as a spitting, jibbering, finger-twiddling, head-bobbing idiot; unable to speak or clean himself and given to violent tantrums, Noah and his utter indifference to others makes him permanently alone. But Karl feels almost as alienated; with his parents preoccupied with Noah's needs (and Noah's celebrity after his father, Joshua, wrote a bestselling account of his illness in A Child Called Noah), he turns to drugs and petty crime in the teenage wasteland of suburban Los Angeles. Greenfeld doesn't flinch in his depiction of Noah's raging dysfunctions or his critique of a callous mental health-care system and arrogant autism-research establishment. (He's especially hard on the psychoanalytic theories of the Viennese charlatan Bruno Bettelheim.) But the author's self-portrait is equally lacerating; he often wallows in self-pity—I return home stoned, drunk, puking on myself as I sit defecating into the toilet, crying to my parents... that I am a failure—and owns up to the coldness that Noah's condition can provoke in him. The result is a bleak but affecting chronicle of a family simultaneously shattered and bound tight by autism. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Gripping.” (Suki Casanave, Washington Post)

More About the Author

Karl Taro Greenfeld is the author of seven books, including the novel Triburbia, the much-acclaimed memoir Boy Alone; NowTrends; China Syndrome; Standard Deviations; and Speed Tribes. Greenfeld's writing has appeared in Harper's, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best American Short Stories and The PEN/O Henry Prize Stories among other publications. A veteran editor and writer for The Nation, TIME, and Sports Illustrated, Karl has also been a frequent contributor to Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times, GQ, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler, Playboy, Men's Journal, The Washington Post, Outside, Wired, Details, and Salon. Born in Kobe, Japan, Karl has lived in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and TRIBECA.


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Customer Reviews

One can feel compassion, empathy, sympathy, pity.
Amazon Customer
Greenfeld has written a powerful, maddening book, pitting sentences that are a joy to read against a raw honesty that is almost impossible to accept.
Dean Kuipers
Yet, it's also very well written fictional story, so I could feel somewhat peculiar pleasure of reading a truly good writing.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Dean Kuipers on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Greenfeld has written a powerful, maddening book, pitting sentences that are a joy to read against a raw honesty that is almost impossible to accept. It is a work of philosophy as endurance contest. The story of his profoundly autistic younger brother, Noah, is a descent by degrees, the deterioration of a child who begins with all the ordinary promise of his big brother but then slides irrevocably to become a mute and sometimes violent and possibly insane adult.

In the burgeoning field of works on autism, this book is like a hatchet thrown at the canon door. The idea that the best parents cannot save a child is rejected with a kind of violence by the prevailing talk-show culture, but that is exactly what happens here. Noah walks into a relentlessly upbeat field of miracle cures and made-for-TV empowerment and overly moralistic breakthroughs with a terrifying defiance. Most of the growing number of new books on this subject are written by celebrated doctors and celebrities and shamen-dudes who address the uplifting and fascinating cases of high-functioning children who just need the right push to find a grip on reality and rise up to lead satisfying lives. As desperately as Karl seems to want this, growing up stoned and alienated in 1970s and `80s Pacific Palisades, it refuses to materialize.

Instead, Karl's memoir addresses the ineffable, the humanity that inhabits a well-educated and successful family whose child does not get better.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By BeatleBangs1964 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping,
Into the future.

I want to fly like an eagle, till I'm free.
Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me."
----Steve Miller Band, 1976

At last! For years I have hoped Karl Greenfeld would share his experiences of growing up with his younger brother, Noah, whom Karl describes as "the most famous autistic child in the United States." Karl's father, Josh Greenfeld wrote a trilogy of brutally honest books about life raising his boys. The Noah Trilogy, as "A Child Called Noah," "A Place For Noah" and "A Client Called Noah" have been called have helped unmask the myth of saintly families who cheerfully sacrifice all for a member with multiple challenges. Josh Greenfeld's books are refreshingly brutal in their unabashed honesty.

Before and After Zachariah: A Family Story About a Different Kind of Courage, which began as an article in the January 1980 issue of "Redbook" and was later expanded into book form mentions "A Place For Noah" by describing the "patchwork after school programs of the day care center." This book also describes the plight of the multiply challeged and the dire need for good placements.

Karl, long relegated to the background because of his younger brother's great needs has finally taken his turn at bat. Born in Japan on November 26 1964, some 18 months before Noah's birth on July 1, 1966, Karl describes his life in the New York suburb of Croton, unaware of a life before and without Noah. He describes his life with Noah; as boys he said he and Noah did not grow up together; they grew apart.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Hindell on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Karl Taro Greenfeld's new memoir Boy ALone is a searing account of growing up in a family with an autistic sibling. In a world where autism is rising exponentially, we hear all too rarely from the brothers and sisters of autistic children. Here Greenfeld describes, sometimes in harrowing detail, the strains of living with someone who is severely autistic. The family's attention inevitably centers on Noah, the autistic brother. Greenfeld deals honestly and compassionately with his family's struggle to find an answer to Noah's condition and takes a cold, hard look at what autism means for the three generations of his family who cope with it. This beautifully written book is not just an account of a family dealing with extraordinary circumstances but a reflection on the meaning of family and a powerful portrait of childhood.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Carla C. Jenkins on May 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a mom to a 7 year old who has autism, I've read dozens of books on the subject, but never one like this. It is an incredibly important book, told from a perspective which is not often given voice, and crafted by a writer with an astonishing gift. The book provides a history of the development of autism treatments through the eyes of someone who lived it through his brother. Today, in the midst of a baffling array of treatments, it is all too easy to forget this history. Like many books written before it but set later in time, this one chronicles in brutal detail what it's like when a family becomes centered around rescuing a child with autism. And it provides a much needed acknowledgement that no matter how hard parents and siblings try, it may not work. For the most part the book respects the importance of holding onto hope, at least until that becomes impossible. It is much needed because those books that now gain the most notoriety are mainly miracle stories. They too are critically important, but they do not provide the whole story. Living with autism is beyond difficult for everyone in the family, and this author's point of view as a sibling should be heard. He goes out of his way to point out that his problems are not his brother's fault, that he is "perfectly capable of [his] own f***-ups." He has no more anger at his brother than many people harbor toward their typically developing siblings.

But the device the author uses near the end of the book is just too cruel for readers who are still working and hoping for their autistic children. If you are a family member actively engaged in trying to give an autistic child a chance at the best life he or she can have, I suggest you read this book, but only at a time when you feel you can handle yet another kick in the gut.
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