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Rachel in the World: A Memoir Paperback – January 27, 2010
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“Jane Bernstein’s Rachel in the World is a remarkable book about tough love--about the many challenges of raising a child with special needs, and about the woeful inadequacy of terms like ‘special needs.’ It is a fearlessly honest book about disability and family life, in which children with disabilities are not heaven’s special angels, and in which children with disabilities grow up to be adults with disabilities. It is a necessary book, in which parents of children with disabilities worry about the world of social services and group homes and uncomprehending strangers. And it is a bracing book that reminds us how tough a parent’s love can be-- and how the power of love can sustain us in even the toughest times.”
What happens when love is no longer enough? Jane Bernstein thought that learning to accept her daughter’s disabilities meant her struggles were over. But as Rachel grew up and needed more than a parent’s devotion, both mother and daughter were confronted with formidable obstacles. Rachel in the World, which begins in Rachel’s fifth year and ends when she turns twenty-two, tells of their barriers and successes with the same honesty and humor that made Loving Rachel, Bernstein’s first memoir, a classic in its field. The linked accounts in part 1 center on family issues, social services, experiences with caregivers, and Rachel herself--difficult, charming, hard to fathom, eager for her own independence. The second part of the book chronicles Bernstein’s attempt to find Rachel housing at a time when over 200,000 Americans with mental retardation were on waiting lists for residential services. As Rachel prepares to leave her mother’s constant protection, Bernstein invites the reader to share the frustrations and unexpected pleasures of finding a place for her daughter, first in her family, and then in the world.
Top customer reviews
That said, this is a very well-written book, and I enjoyed reading about Rachel growing up. I also enjoyed getting to read more about Charlotte, Rachel's older sister. A good friend of mine has a little sister with special needs, and she also had to go through this--getting her sister ready to move out, to be "independent." While my friend's experiences were not exactly the same as Jane and Rachel's, there was an underlying foundation of struggles that they shared.
What really impacted me while I was reading was realizing just how constant the battles are for parents of kids with special needs. They don't ever get rest, because the system is constantly changing, which means they have to stay on top of it and make sure their child is getting the best possible care. By the end of the book, I had this mental image of Jane's family--as a boat, a ship, a great ark that is trying to weather a great storm. The boat makes it to shore, but definitely a bit battered.
On a personal note, it was interesting to realize that Jane wrote this book while she was my teacher. At some points I could map my relationship with her to the events that were happening in the story. She mentions once feeling like she is doing everything badly--parenting, teaching, writing, living. But I can say this with certainty: she was not teaching badly. She was, from the start, one of the professors that I most enjoyed and admired.
Overall a good read, and I am glad that they included pictures. I don't think this book has the universal appeal of LOVING RACHEL, but anyone who read that book will want to finish out the story with this one.