Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World

This is an article from the NY Times about a 22 year-old autistic artist.
"As few as one in 10 [persons with autism] hold even part-time jobs. Some live in state-supported group homes; even those who attend college often end up unemployed and isolated, living with parents.

But Justin is among the first generation of autistic youths who have benefited throughout childhood from more effective therapies and hard-won educational opportunities. The program [described in this article] is based on the somewhat radical premise that with intensive coaching in the workplace and community — and some stretching by others to include them — students like Justin can achieve a level of lifelong independence that has eluded their predecessors."

The full article, Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World, is inspiring and has illustrative multimedia features as well.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief (2009)

by Ann Hood

From Booklist: How does one recover from the plenary grief of losing a precious five-year-old child? Novelist Hood’s answer is simple: one doesn’t. After her daughter died suddenly from an antibiotic-resistant strep infection, she just moved along with life, at first muddling through days and weeks of hearing but not comprehending the advice of well-meaning friends and family. Next, the grief began to shift from being her primary focus to second place, then into periodic episodes of overwhelming anguish. Hood’s sometimes-too-painful-to-read memoir bares all the raw emotions, from denial to despair to anger, that she experienced. The grief never really leaves, she says; it just stops eclipsing all else. Especially after she took up knitting, a pastime that occupied her mind in such a way that she couldn’t knit and grieve at the same time. Ultimately, she, her husband, and their son moved on and, it seems, finally found their way to a likeness of the happiness they once had.

This is a truly moving review from the LA Times. SOMETIMES IT takes guts to be a critic. So often you feel you have no right to be pronouncing on someone else's hard work and insight. Your whiny little voice wheedles off the page. And every once in a while, the emotions you encounter in a book are so raw -- not sentimental, not artful, just plain raw -- that you can barely keep reading, much less recommend what you're reading to anyone else. "Comfort" is such a book. After you read it, you feel utterly depleted.

You can purchase this book from ABEBOOKS for $0.01 plus shipping. The best buy you will make!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Life, On the Line (2011)

(from Amazon, but I agree) In 2007, chef Grant Achatz seemingly had it made. He had been named one of the best new chefs in America by Food & Wine in 2002, received the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year Award in 2003, and in 2005 he and Nick Kokonas opened the conceptually radical restaurant Alinea, which was named Best Restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine. Then, positioned firmly in the world's culinary spotlight, Achatz was diagnosed with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma-tongue cancer.

The prognosis was grim, and doctors agreed the only course of action was to remove the cancerous tissue, which included his entire tongue. Desperate to preserve his quality of life, Grant undertook an alternative treatment of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. But the choice came at a cost. Skin peeled from the inside of Grant's mouth and throat, he rapidly lost weight, and most alarmingly, he lost his sense of taste. Tapping into the discipline, passion, and focus of being a chef, Grant rarely missed a day of work. He trained his chefs to mimic his palate and learned how to cook with his other senses.
As Kokonas was able to attest: The food was never better. Five months later, Grant was declared cancer-free, and just a few months following, he received the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef in America Award.

Life, on the Line tells the story of a culinary trailblazer's love affair with cooking, but it is also a book about survival, about nurturing creativity, and about profound friendship. Already much- anticipated by followers of progressive cuisine, Grant and Nick's gripping narrative is filled with stories from the world's most renowned kitchens-The French Laundry, Charlie Trotter's, el Bulli- and sure to expand the audience that made Alinea the number-one selling restaurant cookbook in America last year.

This is an amazing story -- a pathography, and much, much more.