Things I Love Thursdays is a day that I share something I love with my readers. From clocks and movies to books and yoga. About a month ago, I was pleased to find a hidden gem in my junk mail. An email from the author of The Anti-Romantic Child, Priscilla Gilman. She contacted me after finding my books via The Mom’s Choice Awards website. Priscilla has been super sweet, as we have gone back and forth about her book and my new release. So sweet, that I am going to feature her again in a Q&A so you can get to know a little more about her as an author and parent.
For today, my review of Priscilla’s memoir. But first, an author biography.
Priscilla Gilman grew up in New York City and received her B.A. and Ph.D. in English and American literature from Yale University. She was a professor of English literature at both Yale and Vassar College before leaving academia in 2006. She has taught poetry to inmates in a restorative justice program and to New York City public school students. Gilman writes regularly for publications including the Daily Beast, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Huffington Post. A prize-winning teacher and with a background in the performing arts, Gilman is a captivating speaker whose warmth, dynamism, and accessibility make her highly sought-after by diverse audiences. She speaks frequently at schools, conferences, and organizations about parenting, education, and the arts, and is a Scholar/Facilitator for the New York Council for the Humanities. She lives with her family, including her two boys, her new husband, and her stepdaughter, in New York City. This is her first book.
Night after night, there was something that kept me turning the pages of Priscilla’s book, The Anti-Romantic Child. It wasn’t until the last chapter of the book that I figured out what it was…her undenying love for her child. It’s the bond that we, as mothers all share. The love that we know is there but we aren’t always sure how to describe it. Priscilla uses poetry and raw emotion to describe the love for her child. She puts when we, as parents are thinking, into honest, poetic-like words.
Priscilla writes in such a way that you feel as though you are her best girlfriend and you are getting a coffee talking about life. She pulls you in with her storytelling. I can’t say enough about her writing style and voice.
Before Priscilla became a parent, she had a plan for what her life looked like. Didn’t we all? When life doesn’t go as planned, Priscilla finds joy in the unexpected. The book reminded me a lot of Kelle Hampton’s book, Bloom. Bloom takes you through the emotions one mother experiences immediately following the birth of her daughter with special needs up to about her first birthday. Priscilla’s book takes you from before her child was born to the present day. You are able to see how her feelings and perspectives changed over time. It gives you a “big picture” view of how life with a child with special needs can have it’s ups and downs over the course of time.
Following her motherly intuition, Priscilla discovers her first born son has a developmental delay which she later describes as a special need. She did everything in her power to work with her son to help him overcome some major milestone setbacks early on. Benjamin, known as Benj, made a ton of progress and proved to be a brilliant young man as early as age 1.
The story goes in depth about challenges Priscilla faced in her marriage, in the school system and within herself after Benj was diagnosed (or his delay was discovered, it sounds like his diagnosis is still a bit unclear). I think the book would be wonderful for both teachers and parents to read.
To understand as a parent, how a mother takes fear and uncertainty and uses it to help, not hurt, her family. It was nice to hear honesty from a parent. It’s not a book that will make you feel bad about yourself because you can connect to fears she is describing about parenting. You know you are not alone in the rollercoaster ride of emotions being a mother. To often I read books that overwhelm me with the thought that I’m not doing enough.
I think from a teacher’s point of view, it’s important to see how much extra support families provide outside of the school day for their children with needs. It can and will bring a new level of empathy for their students. When teachers and parents can understand where each other is coming from, they are more effective in helping the child succeed.
I am going to share one of my favorite parts of the book. It’s when Priscilla tells her readers that focusing on her child’s strengths and helping him to grow in those areas is a primary aspriation as a mother. Beautiful.
People often ask me: What are your goals and hopes and dreams for Benj? And the answer is so simple: That he be seen whole against the sky.
In my experience with Benj, I have had to come to terms with the loss of my romantic vision, my idea of how my child, and my life, were going to be. But out of the death of that dream has come a flourishing of amazing life. Being Benj’s mother has changed me profoundly, has made me more, rather than less, idealistic; more, rather than less, passionate; more, rather than less, creative.
Priscilla, Thank you for sharing your touching story with the world.It is bound to make a difference in the lives of those who read it!