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Immersed: Our Experience With Autism Paperback – April 1, 2016
Through vivid images and a candid narrative, parents describe the surreal experience of having twin sons with severe autism. From the introduction: Autism is not subtle. It is not vague. It pervades everything, surfaces everywhere. It blends into the woven strands of life, of reality, attaching itself so swiftly and completely that the entire world seems recast, reformed, reimagined, rewritten. No space, no concept is left untouched.
From the back cover (by Dawn Hassett): Bruce Hall aims his camera at Jack and James and brings back photographs that are unflinchingly close and personal. Through his very specificity, he opens a wider window into a foreign realm—the deep internal experience of autism. This selection of images is from Hall’s extended investigation of autism’s roiling surface. But it may well be something scarcer in photography and in art—a study not of surface, but of great depth.
Valerie Hall's episodic text chronicles Jack’s and James’s condition as it transforms family life and poses ominous implications for the future. Her reactions to her own life in a world where autism makes the rules are candid and unfiltered. She rejects the tropes of most autism literature, spurning both memoir and “how-to” prescriptions. Instead she invites you to encounter Jack and James as she does, as boys that are both beautiful and broken. The day-to-dayness of her account has the disturbing effect of allowing the reader to step into a world where expectations are upended and encounters take on an aura of the surreal.
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Though sensitive and amazingly insightful, it is brutally honest. It's not a book that you can't put down. It's a book that you MUST put down from time to time to take a breath in order to absorb the lives of the Hall family.
This is a must read for parents who live in the isolated fear for the future of their adult child with significant developmental disabilities should the parents not outlive their loved one. This is a must read for everyone who claims to care about those whose lives they feel guilty about turning away from. A must read for ignorant public policy makers and self appointed gurus who view themselves as generous for having secured resources and support for a population of people who cannot speak for themselves and represent those most vulnerable among us.
Through a series of essays, Valerie describes various stages the family goes through. First of all, of course, the
recognition and acceptance of autism….and the realization that her life and Bruce’s will be forever impacted by this discovery. The remaining essays are Valerie’s reflections or reactions to certain aspects of living with autism. Her writings are reflective and personal, but filled with wisdom to be taken away by the reader. I especially appreciated and enjoyed her descriptions of the thought processes they used to make important decisions about caring for the boys, making certain that Christina was not adversely affected by their situation, and describing her own coping strategies with the day to day life she was experiencing. Autism is a family affair. Not only are there decisions and plans for the autistic children, but also for the family as a whole.
Valerie’s essays are accompanied by Bruce’s photographs. Bruce is a professional photographer. It has been a major part of his life since he was a child. It is Bruce’s way of connecting. He has limited vision and learned early on that he can experience his world by taking photographs, enlarging them, and then studying the details. He took pictures of his children in order to see them up close but it was not easy to get good ones. They were not into posing for pictures. He could see what they looked like but they did not help him get to know his boys...to form a connection with them. That all changed when Bruce realized that the boys loved water. Just turn on the hose and they would play happily for an hour or more…they were active and interacting with their environment. Bruce’s speciality is underwater photography. Ah, a connection! Bruce began to turn on the hose for the boys and then photograph them in the situations where they were happiest and where Bruce could interact with them as their father. Bruce took hundreds of photographs which he was able to study and learn about his boys. He filed them away until he and Valerie decided to do the book. Valerie realized she could write her essays to pair with the pictures…and so this book was born. The photographs are a gift to the reader. I cannot describe them adequately. Readers will need to see them for themselves. They are extraordinary. Not only in the artistry of the photographs but in the humanity as well.
I highly recommend this book. The beauty of the writing and photography are reasons enough to buy it. But there is more; much more. I was reminded all through the book about the joy, the sadness, the responsibility, the worry that are embedded in raising children. For the first time, I was able to understand what parents with special needs kids experience and how their lives were impacted by autism. I was inspired by the strategies these parents use to connect with Jack and James, the courage they show in making the tough decisions along the way, and the acceptance of where they find themselves now.
This is an excellent and completely different book for professionals in the field of special education. Beautiful, almost otherworldly, pictures are juxtaposed with the candid stories of life. Seeing these pictures, and reading this book, has increased my understanding and, hopefully, my sensitivity of working with families of children with severe ASD. Thank you.
It’s a book that takes us into another world, one that we would not normally have access to understanding; a world that presents terrors,steady persistence and the expansive tenderness of parental love. It brings us in through the gateway of extraordinary photographs, and absorbing text. The colors and layouts, the stunning photos, the clear, lucid words and the importance of their story make it a treasure house of mindfulness, imagination, love and care. Great admiration and thanks are due for bringing this book into our lives.
If you don’t read, just try to find a better book to look at.
But, if you like to read and love photography stop reading this review and buy this book.
This is a compelling story of strength and grace told in words and pictures.
I've known Bruce’s amazing underwater photography and have been fortunate to see the start of this series taken of his children. It’s a joy to see this work fresh and new again. Valerie’s writing mixes organically with her partner’s photography. It’s a beautiful collaboration. This is what makes this book unique. It’s not a sad documentary where the photos illustrate the words. It’s a wonderful salad of words and photographs that stand on their own, resonating together as a clear look at their struggle to find the joy in their difficult situation.
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Most recent customer reviews
It is an amazing explosion of images, color and feelings, of piercing, and yet lingering thoughts.