Saturday, September 10, 2011

what we've been given

I’ve got two great books to report on! Here goes:
In my last post, I wrote a bit about the book I was reading, Peony in Love by Lisa See. I finished it a few days later and really enjoyed it! I had been reading quite a bit of heavy memoirs, and so the clearly fictional story was a welcome change of pace. The story was compelling and told a lot about China and the lives of young Chinese women, and I found out while reading the epilogue that the story was based on historical events and people. The story revolves around a famous play, The Peony Pavilion, originally performed in 1598, and you can read the wiki about the play here. The play inspired the main character in the book, and real women in China in the 17th century, to write poetry of their own, and some of them became quite popular and were published. I was amazed to find out that such women existed, especially in a time and place where women didn’t have anywhere near the same liberties and opportunities as we women do today. This book, though fictional, taught me a lot about another culture in another time, and showed me the power and intellect women held centuries ago. 
I also just finished a fabulous memoir, Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robinson, which tells the story of the author’s life with Asperger’s, a syndrome on the autistic spectrum. This is one of the best books I've read so far, and I'd encourage you to check it out. I really loved this book because of how straightforward the author was in telling his story. He doesn’t ask for pity and doesn’t become too self-centered, but tells the story of his life as he sees it. I’ve known a few people with Asperger’s, and this gave me some great insight into how those people think and act, which is often noticeably different than how ‘normal’, non-Aspergian people act. Robinson’s story is fascinating because of how well he has done both in spite of and because of his Asperger’s. While the syndrome does affect social interaction in significant ways, people with Asperger’s also have an intense focus that often translates to great intelligence, sometimes categorized as savant. As a result of his laser-like focus, Robinson’s fascination with trains, motors, and mechanics led him to amazing opportunities like designing rocket guitars for KISS or building the first electronic games for Milton Bradley. 

What I loved most about this story is that the author recognizes that he could never have lived the wonderful life or achieved the success that he has without his Asperger’s. I appreciated that the author’s honesty and introspection resulted in an affirmation of his gifts, not in a ‘what if’ or ‘woe is me’ sort of ending. We all have things in our lives that make things difficult, but we wouldn’t be who we are without them. Those same things that we may view as burdens are often the same things that make life beautiful. We're much better off embracing what we've been given and making the most of it, instead of wishing away those challenges. 

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