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Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism Hardcover – May 1, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Bad Animals... offer(s) a sceptical, darkly humourous take on autism lacking in most of the literature out there.... I'd need a neck brace had I nodded every time Yanofsky described a situation I could relate to." -- Emily Donaldson, The Globe and Mail.

"(Bad Animals) is reflective, touching, humourous and heartbreaking. It is a memoir about life, witten by an extremely talented author." -- Kelly Wilton, Montreal Families

“With self-deprecating humor and searing honesty...Yanofsky reveals the painful frustration and the powerful bond of love between him, his wife and their 11-year-old autistic son, Jonah. An eloquent memoir... [Bad Animals] ... also addresses the broader issues involved with parenthood.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Writers show their capacity for greatness when they point their talent at something they love. Joel Yanofsky has done just that: written a marvellous book about a child he adores—his son.” (David Gilmour, author of The Film Club)

“Joel Yanofsky has taken on just about  the hardest of literary tasks, writing about life with an autistic child without succumbing either to sentimentality or bitterness—producing a book that seems both truthful, in its refusal to put too bright a face on a hard reality, and tender, in its insistence on the mysteries of love.” (Adam Gopnik, author of The Table Comes First and Paris to the Moon)

About the Author

Joel Yanofsky is the author of the essay collection Homo Erectus: And Other Popular Tales of True Romance, the novel Jacob’s Ladder, and the biography Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind, which won the QWF Mavis Gallant Non-fiction Prize and the Canadian Jewish Book Award. He’s a regular book reviewer for the Montreal Gazette and has written for a variety of publications, including Canadian Geographic and the Village Voice. He’s won two National Magazine Awards as well as the Malahat Review’s Creative Nonfiction Prize. He lives in Montreal, Canada, with his wife, Cynthia, and his son, Jonah.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1 edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161145414X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611454147
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,519,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a brutally honest portrait of what parents of autistic kids go through day after day after day. Yanofsky's humor and literary references (he is a book critic by trade) elevate the reality he describes. He cites Joyce's Ulysses, the book of Job and various works on autism to help himself and us understand his and his family's circumstances. As the parent of an kid on the spectrum, I appreciate his labours to give the world a glimpse of what we parents go through.
I hope he writes Bad Animals: the sequel.
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Format: Hardcover
At times I was upset with the writer's actions or words, but I was won over by his obvious love and concern, and by the great informative content of this book which shows the great efforts he makes to understand the situation and do all he can for his son. This is an honest memoir, if anything exaggerating the flaws of the writer. I will listen to this again, both because it is well worth listening to again, and also to see if i missed the moment when the author discovered/admitted his own status of "being on the spectrum". He clearly seems to be, which also makes this an interesting read - seeing the way his son, and especially his wife, deal with HIS behaviors. I remember him coming closest to making this explicit when discussing that his wife, having discovered techniques that work with the son, uses the same techniques with him.

To be repetitive, this is above all an honest narrative, and the writer is not afraid to make himself unlikeable, and we see a lot of the effects of autism on a family (extended) and a marriage. We see a lot about the "culture of autism" currently and historically, and get not only a great overview of therapeutic techniques and approaches, but many examples and specifics that make them much more understandable than much of the "instructive" literature does. It's also provides a great overview of autism-related literature; I sought out a number of other books compellingly discussed here. The author has conducted interviews with seminal autism writers and reports on their changes in attitude over the years. In the spirit of great historical literature, or works such as "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" or "Moby Dick", "Bad Animals" provides us with a tremendous amount of well-researched knowledge while we think we're just reading a story.

If I had to recommend just one book on autism spectrum disorders, this might be it...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I came to this book the way many readers probably did, by reading a column by this author in the NY Times. I almost didn’t buy it because of the very high price (John Grisham’s new e-book is $6.95) but I am curious about autism. Looking at the sales rating for the book, I’m guessing not very many readers are curious enough to spend almost fifteen dollars for an e-book. I would suggest to the publisher that his company would make much more money by putting a reasonable price on it. I encourage the publisher to do this, as I think this is a very worthwhile book, and should be widely read. Plus when you have an author who can get himself a column in the NY Times, the least you can do is put a reasonable price on his book.

I liked the honesty of the book, and I really appreciated all of the discussion about how other people’s reactions affected the author and his wife. That was useful information, and I have to say that I liked his wife’s ideas for an appendix. Or—here’s an idea for the author—publish a short book yourself (maybe for ninety-nine cents, or $2.99)) with suggestions for those of us without an ASD child. What do we need to know? What minefields do we avoid?

I also loved the descriptions of the author’s interactions with Jonah. I think perhaps more of those—and maybe a little less about how hard this book was to write—would have made the book even stronger. But it was a good read, and I hope we hear more about Jonah in the future.
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