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The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joyby Priscilla Gilman
Synopses & Reviews
Priscilla Gilman had the greatest expectations for the birth of her first child. Growing up in New York City amongst writers, artists, and actors, Gilman experienced childhood as a whirlwind of imagination, creativity, and spontaneity. As a Wordsworth scholar, she celebrated and embraced the poet's romantic view of children — and eagerly anticipated her son's birth, certain that he, too, would come "trailing clouds of glory." But her romantic vision would not be fulfilled in the ways she dreamed. Though Benjamin was an extraordinary child, the signs of his precocity — dazzling displays of memory and intelligence—were also manifestations of a developmental disorder that would require intensive therapies and special schooling, and would dramatically alter the course Priscilla had imagined for her family.
In The Anti-Romantic Child, a memoir full of lyricism and light, Gilman explores the complexity of our hopes for our children, our families, and ourselves, and the way in which experience can alter and lead us to reimagine those hopes and expectations. Using Wordsworth's poetry as a touchstone, she speaks intimately of her poignant journey through crisis and disenchantment to a place of peace and resilience. Through her courageous account, we discover how events and situations often perceived as setbacks can actually inspire and enrich us. Developing a supple and open mind is important, this book reminds us, not only with respect to our children but also with respect to our relationship with any person whose otherness is at first disorienting. As she goes beyond her family's trials and ultimate triumphs, Gilman illuminates the flourishing of life that occurs when we embrace the unexpected. The Anti-Romantic Child is an incredible synthesis of memoir and literature, one that resonates long after you finish the last page.
"The daughter of literary agent Lynn Nesbit and the late theater drama critic Richard Gilman crafts a beautifully sinuous and intensely literary celebration of the exceptional, unconventional child. Her son, Benjamin, was born when she and her academic husband, Richard, were in graduate school at Yale, where she was still working on her dissertation on the Romantic English poet William Wordsworth. As 'Benj' grew older and failed to hit the usual milestones of children his age, exhibiting brilliant but 'odd' behavior such as an obsession with numbers, aversion to physical affection, fastidiousness, inability to feed himself, and echolalia, Gilman realized these were 'uncontrollable manifestations of a disorder,' namely hyperlexia. Falsely reassured by their well-intentioned pediatrician, the couple finally sought professional therapists, and after they relocated to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where both got teaching jobs at Vassar, Benj made marvelous progress in school. Throughout her narrative, Gilman extracts from many of Wordsworth's poems, which comment on innocence and loss and gave Gilman tremendous succor during Benjamin's early development, making for both charming and studious reading. Her thoughtful memoir involves the breakup of her marriage, rejection of an academic career, and move to New York City to work in her mother's literary agency as much as it delves lyrically into the rare, complex mind of the unusual child." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A riveting and original book about love." Ann Beattie
"With unforgettable honesty, Priscilla Gilman recounts how the reality of a challenging child transformed her dream of the perfect family. I couldn't put this book down." Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project
"What a glorious book Priscilla Gilman has written. Lively, eloquent, straightforward, and insightful, The Anti-Romantic Child deftly delineates and negotiates the complex cross-currents of a life of the mind and a life of the heart." Sandra Boynton, children's book author and illustrator
"The Anti-Romantic Child is beautiful, poetic, and heartfelt. It's more than a mother-child story; it's a journey of self-discovery. It's a book every parent should read." Kathryn Erskine, bestselling author of Mockingbird and winner of the 2010 National Book Award
"Priscilla Gilman's lyrical narrative is profoundly moving and ultimately joyous. It eloquently touches the universal as a meditation upon the way devoted parenthood can overcome the poignance of a child's developmental disorder." Harold Bloom
"Gilman is at once lyrical and deeply analytical as she explores the complexities of parenthood and the need to embrace the unforeseen." Booklist (Starred Review)
"This is a fascinating, tender, illuminating book about an extraordinary boy and his equally extraordinary mother. Their story will remind you that our fantasies about the way life should operate are both infinitely simpler than the complexities of the real world, and infinitely less beautiful. A wonderful read." Martha Beck, author of Expecting Adam
“The Anti-Romantic Child is remarkable. This haunting and lyrical memoir will be an invaluable and heartening guide to all who find themselves in similar situations and indeed anyone confronting an unforeseen challenge.”—Marie Brenner, writer for Vanity Fair and author of Apples and Oranges
With an emotionally resonant combination of memoir and literature, Wordsworth scholar Priscilla Gilman recounts the challenges of raising a son with hyperlexia, a developmental disorder neurologically counterpoint to dyslexia. Gilman explores the complexities of our hopes and expectations for our children and ourselves. With luminous prose and a searing, personal story evocative of A Year of Magical Thinking and A Year of Reading Proust, Gilmans The Anti-Romantic Child is an unforgettable exploration of what happens when we lean to embrace the unexpected.
About the Author
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 published numerous articles, chaired panels and lectured at literary and early childhood conferences, and taught poetry to inmates in a restorative justice program. She lives with her two sons in New York City. This is her first book.
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