George Estreich’s super-fine book The Shape of the Eye has been picked up by a different publishing house and is now available in softcover, with a new cover and as I understand it, an extra chapter (Laura is now eleven!).
This book is superb; not just superb as a memoir by a parent of child with Down syndrome; it’s superb in an of itself. Luscious word usage (George is a professional poet – like, by training at Cornell – and it shows), expert writing…it’s just a really beautifully written life story and it’s one that you can look forward to re-reading as his prose is worthy of savouring.
Thankfully the rest of the world is discovering this book – People magazine gave it 4 out of 4 stars, and that’s kind of awesome because it just goes to show that I KNOW WHAT’S GOOD, don’t I?! haha. No, really. I loved this book before everyone else did!
His publicist is letting me share the love by giving away 2 copies of The Shape of the Eye. You do have to live in the US (or have a US address to mail it to) to participate in this giveaway. But just leave a comment and you will be entered, winners picked randomly next Tuesday.
Oh! And George recently did a Q & A with Parents.com – here it is: http://www.parents.com/blogs/mom-must-read/2013/04/18/parenting-advice/the-shape-of-the-eye-by-george-estreich-tells-one-dad-and-daughters-journey-through-down-syndrome/
But personally, I think the one I had with him (and author Amy Julia Becker) was better. In fact, I liked it so much, I’m just going to replay it now. Here it is:
Interview with George Estreich
You have both written memoirs related to your daughters, both of whom were born with Down syndrome. Why did you feel the need to write about your experiences?
In the beginning, writing the book didn’t feel like a choice; it was something I had to do. I was trying to make sense of my experience through writing about it, and to build continuities between the new life and the old—though I wouldn’t have put it that way then. As the book evolved, though, my motivations became less immediately personal. I wanted, in a small way, to join the conversation, to influence the way Down syndrome is seen.
What do you hope readers will gain from your memoir and your perspective?
I wanted, and want, to change readers’ minds. Many, whatever their intentions, have settled beliefs about what Down syndrome is and what the people who have it are like. Especially when those beliefs were mistaken, I wanted to challenge them, to replace false answers with truer questions.
That’s why I told the story of a single girl: to question the idea that one child with Down syndrome can stand for all children. And it’s why I told my story, spending a fair amount of time on my own misconceptions; I wanted to show the way in which my mind was changed.
One of the best parts of having the book out in the world is that I get to meet readers. The book is the beginning of a conversation, or many conversations, and it’s a true pleasure to continue that conversation with those who are interested.
You have read each other’s books; in what ways do you think your books are both similar and different?
For both of us, the arrival of a child with Down syndrome made us question our assumptions. Both of us felt the need to grapple with our questions publicly, in writing. Both of our books are deeply personal, and reveal a great deal about our own reactions to our children, and yet are circumscribed too: if I had to guess (I haven’t asked), I’d say that Amy Julia probably shares some of my wariness of memoirs that tell too much, of self-exposure without revelation.
One obvious difference is that Amy Julia’s writing is framed in Christian terms, and mine is not. At the same time, both of us are clearly fond of irreducible mysteries, and may even prefer questions to answers, so this difference—while significant—is not as huge as it might seem.
What was the most challenging aspect of telling your story?
Integrating research with storytelling, managing large structures, and telling the truth without doing harm—or without doing too much harm.
If you had to write it all over again, would you change what you said in your book? If so, what would that be?
Surprisingly, I don’t have anything I really want to change. But this is less smugness than self-protection: revision is endless, and I want to write something new.
How did you come up with the title of your book and how do you think it reflects on the story’s overall message?
The Shape of the Eye came to me fairly early, maybe a year or two into the project. I mainly like the way it sounds, and am hoping readers will discover their own connections between it and the story.
What was your favorite part in your story?
I’m partial to the descriptions of life before Laura, particularly the scenes with Ellie in North Carolina; to the short section about driving across the country with Theresa; and to the description of “Your Child’s Heart Book.”
What was your favorite part in Amy Julia/George’s story?
There are many things I like—Amy Julia’s honesty, her thoughtful and complex meditations on the religious significance of her experience, and her presentation of faith. She is devout and self-searching at once; to this outsider, at least, it seems that her faith is renewed by intellect, by questions.
I also very much like Amy Julia’s account of Down syndrome in the world: the way people struggle to make sense of it, to reassure, or to reassure themselves. Particularly powerful: the scene at her mother’s book club, and the scene in which a husband’s colleague urges her to get testing, and questions her testing decision.
What projects are you currently engaged in? Any new books from you on the horizon?
For now, I’ve returned to short forms—short essays, mostly, though I may go back to poems as well. I’m turning over a few ideas for a new book, but don’t have anything specific or firm enough to report.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
“Now that you’ve won a MacArthur Grant, sold the foreign rights to your book in thirty-seven countries, and attained book sales more typically associated with hastily written novels about vampires, to which part of New Zealand will your family be moving?”
Do you have any questions for the reader?
How has the advent of the e-reader changed your reading habits? For the better, for the worse, or somewhere in between?
George Estreich will be visiting the Bay Area! http://georgeestreich.com/George_Estreich/Calendar.html
Radio links are also available on the “On the air” page: http://georgeestreich.com/George_Estreich/On_the_air.html
Win your copy by leaving a comment – either answer George’s question re: the e-reader or just talk about the weather…. Random picking of 2 winners will happen next Tuesday the 30th of April. Sorry, US only.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.
I have an ereader after swearing I would never use one! I love books, the feel, the smell, etc but my mom got me one for my birthday. I do use it but not as much as she hoped I would:) I forget to charge it and I find it really hard to borrow books on it from our local library. I do like it because of the back light which is nice when you’re nursing a baby at 2 am:)
The e-reader hasn’t changed my reading habits at all. I have a Kindle, but I rarely use it myself. I like the feel of a book in my hand, I like looking at books on the shelf and seeing the different colors/shapes/title wording and typeface. I give my local library card a good workout and I have personally found that I spend less time on a waiting list for a book than I would if I used my Kindle for it.
I would love to win a copy of this book and I can’t wait to read it!
I can’t wait to read this book and I love reading your blog and hearing about Moxie and your life in general.
I’ve been waiting for this book to come out!! I’d love to win a copy of it, but if I don’t win, I will buy myself a copy of this book. Thanks for the chance to win! <3
Ironically my boss was just telling me abut this book today while at work and then I saw this posting! I have a. Hear old with DS and I can’t wait to read this!?
I haven’t changed my reading habits based on the kindle, although I do use the kindle when I travel now so that I don’t have to carry heavy books. 🙂 I prefer actual books but like the portability and ease of the kindle. I really appreciate the chance to win this book!
Oh man, this has been on my list for so long!!!
I read light fiction on my kindle, but I don’t use it for my favorite books. I really like to highlight parts and dog-ear pages so that I can go back to important sections. I have been wanting to read George’s book for a year, and now that it’s been re-released, I am even more motivated to do so. 🙂
Love those beautiful eyes!!!! Excited for this chance. Thank you for sharing your little Moxie!!!
I resisted digital books at first, but once I discovered that the library lends digital books, I dove in and now read most books on my iPad. I like being able to look up a word, follow a link to Wikipedia, search for free books. Being able to adjust font size and brightness helps these aging eyes. I just bought a new larger shoulder bag so I can carry the iPad around with me. On the downside, I worry about falling asleep at night with the iPad in my hands — I can just see it falling out of my loosening grasp, slipping off the edge of the bed and clattering to the floor.
Estreich had one of the best lines this year (which I think I shared ‘here’ already), “…the word “special” was used as an insult, which only testifies to the resilience of prejudice.”
I enjoyed reading this interview to get a sense of what stands behind “The Shape of the Eye” and am eagerly looking forward to reading it!
“For both of us, the arrival of a child with Down syndrome made us question our assumptions. Both of us felt the need to grapple with our questions publicly, in writing. ”
I believe that bearing witness to your journey will open the reader’s awareness to these issues, to experience them vicariously as you grapple with them. This is memoir at its highest, to share the life lessons learned, and in this case, I sense that there is wisdom gained that is at service to the rest of us. Thank you!
I have a wonderful four month old little girl with DS. I would love to read this book!
I would love to read this book! It would be such a blessing to win one!
This sounds like a great book. I have an 8 month old son with DS and simply adore him.
The book sounds incredible! I can’t wait to read it! 🙂 Thanks!
I’d love to win this. I’ve been wanted to get a copy to read it and just haven’t ordered it yet.
The ereader…I fought against it, I LOVE LOVE the feel of a book, turning the pages, smelling it, searching for one in the bookstore, BUT my husband got me a kindle for my birthday a few years ago and, although I still read BOOK books, I love the convenience of being able to immediately download another book when I’ve finished one. I am also so happy that this book has been republished!!!!! It is such an important view of life while raising a child with Down syndrome.
I’m dyin’ to read this! I’ve had so many people recommend it, including those impacted by Ds, and some who aren’t. My 17 month old is the light of my life, and he happens to have Ds. I really enjoy your blog and perspective. Thanks! Disclaimer: most scattered, random comment, possibly ever.
I was THRILLED to see People Magazine covering this book!!!! YAHOO!!!!
I love this book! It was the first book I read about Down syndrome after my son was born and I recommend it to all of my friends. Great interview!