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A Different Life: Growing Up Learning Disabled and Other Adventures Hardcover – March 31, 2009

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Kate and Jim Lehrer
A Different Life is a marvel--a stunning rocket of honesty about growing up learning disabled. As Quinn explains his frustrations, dreams, set-back and triumphs, he also explores with humor and sensitivity the difficulties in even a loving family's dynamic of dealing with their son. The portrait that unfolds is not so unlike that of many a family -- his father loving but firm and wanting to fit him for the world and a mother who does everything in her power to protect him from the emotional and physical suffering he often endures. Yet through the heartbreak shines Quinn's hopefulness and kindness and spills onto us all. This book is for everyone.”

Barbara Kantrowitz, The Daily Beast, 3/31
“Bradlee is, at times, funny, mordant, surprisingly perceptive and disturbingly naïve…. it’s clear that even enormous privilege did not protect him from the profound loneliness of being different.”

Liz Smith,, 3/31
“You’ll be hearing the name Quinn Bradlee a lot now that this son of Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee of Washington media fame has finished A Different Life: Growing Up Learning Disabled and Other Adventures.”

Kate Tuttle, Washington Post
“Bradlee's book brings a bracing honesty to the tough stuff he's faced, and a sweet enthusiasm toward the things that make him happy, from surfing to his childhood dog. He doesn't sugarcoat how difficult difference can be, but there's no pity here, and no complaint.”

ADDitutde Magazine
“A rare peek into the beliefs, feelings, and experiences of this young man with differing abilities, who just wants what the rest of us want out of life--work that he enjoys and is good at, and reciprocal relationships with a partner, good friends, and a wider social network.”

About the Author

Quinn Bradlee attended Landmark College, American University, and the New York Film Academy. He has made a series of short documentary films about children with learning disabilities and rare genetic syndromes, and he has launched a website to create a community for LD kids and their families. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Jeff Himmelman assisted Bob Woodward on Maestro and Tim Russert on Big Russ and Me. He has worked on other book projects as an editor and author. His reporting and writing with Woodward helped The Washington Post win the Pulitzer Prize for its post-9/11 coverage. He lives in Washington, D.C.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481894
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #959,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By lmj on July 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Quinn Bradlee is the son of former "Washington Post" editor Ben Bradlee and his wife, reporter Sally Quinn. Quinn was born with a heart defect and had a number of health issues throughout his life. When he was 14, he was finally diagnosed with VCFS (velo-cardio-facial syndrome) a genetic abnormality which is the second most often occurring disability (Down's Syndrome is number one.) One consequence of the syndrome is having a learning disability. I read this book since I am married to a man with a severe learning disability (dyslexia), the mother of a son with a mild learning disability (dysgraphia) and taught students with learning disabilities in public schools for a number of years. I wished to compare Quinn's experiences with my observations. Quinn's prose seems brash, yet I know this partially relative to having a learning disability and might partially be due to his recognition of his parents' celebrity. At times I cringed, recognizing "traps" Quinn found himself in during his schooling. Thankfully, Quinn and his parents found a school and teachers who concentrated on Quinn's strengths. If only we could do this for all students - special needs or not.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Showme on April 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Fast read; I scooped it up in an evening. Clear writing, to the point, funny, thoughtful and thought-provoking. I liked how the authors allowed important players in Mr. Bradlee's life to speak in their own voices in full passages, such as Mr. Bradlee's doctor.

Mr. Bradlee was pretty forthright about how his parents' resources and connections did garner him benefits that others might not enjoy. He was also candid about how sometimes it really sucked to have learning disabilities.

Some standout excerpts:

On his love of surfing: "I'm not a pro surfer or anything close to it, but that's not the point. The best surfer is the one that's having the most fun."

"Poetry by sixteen-year-old kids sucks by definition."

On what it's like to feel isolated: "Sometimes I'll see a leaf being driven over by cars, and it'll slowly get to the other side of the road. That's how I feel from time to time."

This is a good contribution to the collection of books by individuals whose brains work differently than most.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What if your father is Ben Bradlee, your mother's Sally Quinn, and you're stuck with a learning disorder that disrupts even prosaic activities?

Never mind growing up to help expose another Watergate or skewer pretentious socialites. Suppose you have trouble understanding most books or face memory problems.

Just what to do, especially in a brutal, hierarchical place like Washington, D.C.? In politics and media, the generals and their families are expected to put on a good show for the troops. How to respond? Should your family hide you from the public or gloss over your shortcomings?

Luckily the parents of Quinn Bradlee, a plucky 26-year-old born with Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome, let him and a skillful collaborator tell the whole story or at far more than we might have anticipated. Ben Bradlee and wife had apparently envisioned their son writing a buttoned-down book without earthy language--perhaps a respectful look at the boy's ancestors, since Quinn is a genealogy buff. But Quinn and his not-so-hidden ghost wisely avoided this PRish tack.

The two paid due tribute to Bradlee and Quinn forebears, but kept in the S word. In fact, they even wrote a scene set on a Caribbean island, Saint Martin, where Quinn loses his virginity to a hooker with skin "as black as the night sky and black curly hair that came down to her shoulder." Quinn's hooker story would be mere titillation by itself; but A Different Life is full of, say, his reflections on women and life in general--naïve in places, but just the same, genuinely his. He does not just share his triumphs at a boarding school for people with disabilities; he also tells of the vicious hazing there. Honesty is the salient trait of this work.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joan A. Cooke on April 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book not only educates you on his syndrome, but is a real walk in his shoes. We THINK we can understand how it feels to someone special. Quinn Bradlee lets us become him. I am thrilled to have that experience. I better understand how to interact with all types of people. Should be required reading for all high school kids. Some language and personal experiences by Quinn make it questionable for kids under high school age. Parents,however, should read parts of this book to those younger kids. This is a book about understanding and tolerance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Amherst on August 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled upon reference to this book in the Sunday NY Times a while back. Got online to find it and ordered pronto! Even though Quinn's learning disability is couched within extreme wealth and privilege...his story of growing up and experiencing rights of passage in the "slow lane" still comes through loud & clear. As a single Mom of average income who has raised a son (now in college)with a learning disability in reading & written expression, I am keenly aware of the social and educational challenges such a disability presents. Nonetheless, Quinn's story opened my eyes on several topics and confirmed suspicions on others.
Definitely worth a few purchase dollars to expand one's perspective on the topic. Buy/read it!
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