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The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 19, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The daughter of literary agent Lynn Nesbit and the late theater drama critic Richard Gilman crafts a beautifully sinuous and intensely literary celebration of the exceptional, unconventional child. Her son, Benjamin, was born when she and her academic husband, Richard, were in graduate school at Yale, where she was still working on her dissertation on the Romantic English poet William Wordsworth. As "Benj" grew older and failed to hit the usual milestones of children his age, exhibiting brilliant but "odd" behavior such as an obsession with numbers, aversion to physical affection, fastidiousness, inability to feed himself, and echolalia, Gilman realized these were "uncontrollable manifestations of a disorder," namely hyperlexia. Falsely reassured by their well-intentioned pediatrician, the couple finally sought professional therapists, and after they relocated to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where both got teaching jobs at Vassar, Benj made marvelous progress in school. Throughout her narrative, Gilman extracts from many of Wordsworth's poems, which comment on innocence and loss and gave Gilman tremendous succor during Benjamin's early development, making for both charming and studious reading. Her thoughtful memoir involves the breakup of her marriage, rejection of an academic career, and move to New York City to work in her mother's literary agency as much as it delves lyrically into the rare, complex mind of the unusual child. (May)
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“This is a fascinating, tender, illuminating book about an extraordinary boy and his equally extraordinary mother. A wonderful read.” (Martha Beck, author of Expecting Adam and columnist for O magazine )
“Rapturously beautiful and deeply moving, profound and marvelous.” (Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon )
“What a glorious book Priscilla Gilman has written. Lively, eloquent, straightforward, and insightful, The Anti-Romantic Child deftly delineates and negotiates the complex cross-currents of a life of the mind and a life of the heart.” (Sandra Boynton, children's book author and illustrator )
“Unforgettable. . . . I couldn’t put this book down.” (Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project )
“The Anti-Romantic Child is beautiful, poetic, and heartfelt. It’s more than a mother–child story; it’s a journey of self-discovery. It’s a book every parent should read.” (Kathryn Erskine, bestselling author of Mockingbird and winner of the 2010 National Book Award )
“A fantastic memoir. . . . I loved this book.” (KJ Dell'Antonia, lead blogger for the New York Times Motherlode )
“Every parent should read this luminous book to absorb or absorb again the truth that every child is a surprise—a revelation—to be uniquely learned and understood as well as loved.” (Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing A Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom )
“Priscilla Gilman’s lyrical narrative is profoundly moving and ultimately joyous. It eloquently touches the universal.” (Harold Bloom )
“Smart, soulful, and involving.” (Nick Hornby, The Believer )
“A book for all parents. . . . [Gilman’s] poignant story of reconciling fantasy with reality is a universal story of parental growth. A story to inspire us all.” (Ellen Galinsky, the Huffington Post )
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Top customer reviews
Ms. Gilman is a former professor of English literature at Yale University and Vassar College. She is a professor, a writer, a mom and I think, a pioneer of sorts in terms of her honesty. Similar to Ms. Gilman, I am the parent of an anti-romantic child. Our stories are certainly not identical, but our emotions toward our children are.
Ms. Gilman’s experience began as mine did, with a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite “right” about her son. He was so bright, but was not able to perform the same tasks and take pleasure in the same things that other children did. My son met all of the physical developmental milestones on time, but still struggles with emotional regulation. Ms. Gilman’s son lagged behind in motor skills but could read at 18 months.
“This is your first child, you are just over analyzing.” People told me. Well-meaning family and friends said similar things to Priscilla Gilman.
When you are told that your child is behind his peers, or is not behaving in preschool, you go searching for answers. You feel ashamed, like something in your parenting must be lacking. Ms. Gilman and I both chose not to tell anyone but very close family members about our fears.
As soon as you start seeing therapists and doctors it all becomes real. Way too real. You question everything. Can he go to public school? Will he be bullied? What if he is not as smart as I had thought? Priscilla Gilman puts all of these questions out there for the reader to contemplate in searing, thought-provoking detail.
My favorite passage from the book is on page 175. The author is describing her thought process when searching for a school for her son. She had kept him in a traditional pre-school who accommodated his needs and the educational values of his family. Similar to myself, Ms. Gilman was afraid of “labeling” her child.
“ …Why saddle him with a label that might stigmatize him, circumscribe his options, limit him in his life?”
Ms. Gilman deftly describes her search for first the perfect preschool, and then the perfect grade school for her son, Benj. She describes beautifully all of the aptitudes and particularities of her child in a way that only a parent could. Her words are both informational and therapeutic. Her story telling ability and recall of complicated and uncomfortable conversations is amazing.
I so appreciate the frankness with which she describes her feelings, the medical professionals, and her son. She even reveals how her marriage was affected by her son’s exceptionalities. It seems that the father of her children shared some of the traits that came to light in her older son. Throughout the book she is kind, understanding and even reverent of her now ex-husband.
You don’t read parenting books like this often. Part story, part self-help, part autobiographical. This book is wholly honest and written through the eyes of a parent, not the eyes of a practitioner.
This is a book for anyone who is on a journey with their own child. Not every child fits into a perfect mold, and not every parent is able to deal with that. Not every parent wants to put a name to what makes their child different. We live in a culture of labels: Emotional Disturbance, ODD, ADHD, Bipolar, Autism Spectrum….
Ms. Gilman eliminates the labels and celebrates the realities. This is hopeful and beautiful storytelling. If you enjoy romantic poetry or are a literary nerd like me, I guarantee you will love this one for the poetry alone. If you are parent to an anti-romantic child you will love this book for its poignant detail. Everyone who works with children with or without special needs will love this book.
I highly recommend it. You can learn more about Priscilla Gilman at [...]