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Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity Hardcover – August 14, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In Miracle Boy, Ben Mattlin pulls off a nearly miraculous feat: creating an insightful, poignant, light-hearted and often hilarious memoir about life as a paraplegic.  Mattlin's resilience, his curiosity, and his steadfast refusal to see himself as a victim are inspiring; his prose is deft, wry and self-aware.  Like many of the best memoirs, this one brings you inside a beautiful mind." - Jay McInerney

"Fantastic! Funny ... interesting ... beautifully done!" - Jolie Mason, "Access Unlimited," KPFK radio, March 13, 2013

"Quite delicious ... Mattlin's timing is perfect, never over-analyzing or dwelling too long on any one subject. ... A compelling writer... poetic without being sentimental." - Roxanne Furlong, New Mobility magazine, January 2013 

"Ben Mattlin could be called many things: Iconoclast, sidesplitting, and wise, among them.  In Miracle Boy Grows Up, Mattlin demonstrates perhaps his greatest skill--as a master storyteller."
 - Lawrence Carter-Long, National Council on Disability

"In Miracle Boy Grows Up, Ben Mattlin spins the limitations of his genetic disease into literary gold. He tells his story with grace and candor, each beautifully crafted sentence illuminating not only his rich inner life but also the complex history of the disability rights movement."  - Hamilton Cain, Author of This Boy's Faith

"Mattlin tells the fascinating twin stories of his own life and the history of the disability rights movement. ... Deeply intelligent, utterly honest, funny, irritable, raunchy, companionable ... it is a love story, the story of a son, a father, and writer.  This book is a pleasure."  - Elizabeth McCracken

"Mattlin is candid about his challenges (e.g., finding a job, hiring attendants) but he isn't looking for pity, just understanding.  ... Those who do pick up this memoir will find a unique perspective that compares with Harriet McBryde Johnson's Too Late to Die Young." --Library Journal

"Born with a severe neuromuscular condition, writer and NPR commentator Mattlin pens the story of his life so far... While most people with this illness are unlikely to live to adulthood, Mattlin's story is filled with details of how he managed to beat the odds." -Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Ben Mattlin was born in New York in 1962 with spinal muscular atrophy, a congenital muscle-wasting disease. He graduated from Harvard in 1984 and is an NPR commentator and frequent contributor to financial magazines. He has written on disability and other topics for The New York Times, Self magazine, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. He has also appeared on CNN, ABC's Prime Time Live, and the E!Entertainment Network, among other venues, to discuss his disability-related writings. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing; 1 edition (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616087315
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616087319
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Emery J on September 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came across Mattlin as I was desperately searching for information on "mixed ability" relationships. My partner has SMA and has since a child and I am able-bodied (or TAB). I was worried about whether or not we could make it work, whether I would be able to handle it; the list of worries go on and on...This book eased my worries, but also gave me more than just information on mixed ability relationships. The historical research and presentation about the disability rights movement fostered my interest in disability advocacy and gave me a thorough background of the movement.

Mattlin's story is about him growing up and, like I said, the disability rights movement. He shares the challenges that he faced in a time where people with differing abilities from the mass culture were still stigmatized and discriminated against. Throughout the book, both the readers and Mattlin learn just how lucky he was to come from the background he did. A few times, he gets a glimpse into the world of other disabled people at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, camps, etc...He discovers that not all of them have parents who advocate or even want them. You learn of the case of "Baby Doe"--two parents were allowed to starve their child to death because it had a disability. Luckily for readers and for Mattlin, that did not happen to him. There are now legal protections against this, but there is still a cultural battle against prenatal testing and the ability to abort a child simply on the fact that they will be disabled (I go back and forth on this as an extremely pro-choice person). For someone who didn't really know much about the disability rights movement aside from the ADA, Mattlin provides a great explanation of what happened, when it happened, and the context in which it happened.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a kid, Ben loved physically invincible superheros, but being born with spinal muscular atrophy put a crimp in that as a career plan. That's what the book is about.

Written in a warm and funny style, Ben talks about the situations created by his health, his interactions with those more ambulatory (but less funny) than himself, and the obstructing curbstones of love and parenthood that we all might face.

I'd recommend this book to those who:
1. know someone in a wheelchair, but don't know how to act around that person
2. have an interest in disability rights
3. are ambulatory, for now anyway
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ben Mattlin is a professional journalist, a Harvard graduate, husband to an attractive accomplished woman, and father to two daughters, and he lives in Los Angeles. So by any reasonable standard, he is a disgustingly accomplished human being with a pretty sweet existence. Far worse, he has accomplished all this without ever taking a step. He complains about being seen as a heartwarming inspirational story by people who don't know him, but if you ask me, he need not worry. To be frank, his story made me wonder what the hell is wrong with ME and what I have been doing with my own life. Tip: Don't let your spouse read this unless you want him/her to start looking askance at you 24/7 with a gaze that clearly says, "Why are you on that couch watching Dog the Bounty Hunter when you could be running down freelance work or publishing an extremely flattering portrait of me?"

All right, now to be serious about this very, very good book.

"Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity" is a revelatory account of the author's life (to date) against the broader background of the revolution in recognition of disability rights in the United States. If you are like me, you will have had very little previous consciousness of this neglected movement, which has been quite comparable in scale and significance to the other great civil rights struggles of the past century. (We've all heard of Martin Luther King and Gloria Steinem; until this book, I had never heard of Ed Roberts or the Rolling Quads.)

51 million Americans have some sort of disability; as Mattlin notes, each of us is merely temporarily ambulatory.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Get past the title. This isn't the schmaltzy yarn about a "super crip" that Miracle Boy suggests. And though the author makes many references to his evolving relationship to the disability rights movement, it isn't a strident, pedantic lecture about social justice. At its heart, Miracle Boy is a disarmingly honest accounting of the author's struggle to create and maintain the kind of normal, independent life we all wish to have.

As the father of two disabled adult children, I understand full well the barriers Mr. Mattlin faces each day, most of all the critical importance of having pleasant, honest, dependable assistants to maintain full independence.

Miracle Boy accomplishes the primary purpose of any well written memoir. It allows you to understand what it is like to live in another's shoes.
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Format: Hardcover
I have always enjoyed books dealing with the triumph of the human spirit, stories about people overcoming huge challenges and coming out on top. But Miracle Boy is so much more. Superbly written with insight and humor, author Ben presents a gripping tale of his and his family's incredible journey. I read it on a long plane ride...got home exhausted but stayed up finishing it. Miracle Boy has indeed grown up...and into a fine writer. May he continue to share his literary gift for inspiring, informing, educating...and most of all, entertaining readers. Looking forward to "Miracle Boy Goes to Hollywood."
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