Geeks Vs Loneliness: Wonder, disability and perspectives

Just a book recommendation that may make you, or those around you, look at disability a little differently.

Welcome to our weekly Geeks Vs Loneliness slot. If you’ve never read one of these articles before, then just a quick word as to what we’re up to. We run this series of short pieces to talk about issues and challenges that some of us may face. The idea is to pass on a few tips, and then get out of your way until next week. Hopefully, the tips can be of help to somebody out there.

This week, I want to talk about a book that’s well worth seeking out. But I want to contextualise why.

One of my children has a disability. They’re an avid reader, and one day, they put a copy of Wonder on my desk. Naturally, I didn’t get near it for a few weeks, until they casually asked if I’d had a chance to read it. I picked it up, and started reading. I was done inside 24 hours. There was something special to me that they’d recommended it, but also, there’s simply something special about the book.

Wonder is written by R J Palacio, and tells the story of a boy called Auggie, who has a physical disfigurement. It’s a book that’s aimed at younger readers, but I got an awful lot out of it, and much of that is down to the approach that Palacio takes.

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For in Wonder, she frames disability and impairment through alternating viewpoints. Chapters are written from the perspectives of different characters. How does Auggie’s sister feel? What about his friends at school? How do his parents balance their time between him and his sister?

And then there’s Auggie himself, a character who is firmly put through the wringer by Palacio throughout her book.

The chapters are short, and sometimes pull no punches. Palacio doesn’t talk down to her readers, and openly confronts attitudes and perspectives in a startlingly human way. It’s an eye-opener in so many respects, and I and many people have found it an emotional punch to the gut. It’s a really clever, outstanding piece of writing, and it doesn’t surprise me that it’s been published in an adult edition too.

Further standalone Kindle singles were released, adding more perspectives, but these feel more like optional extras than anything vital. But the main book itself is really something, unafraid and fearless in approaching impairment from several angles.

There’s Star Wars stuff in it, too. Thought you might like to know that. It’s one example of just how wonderfully accessible¬†Wonder¬†is.

Do feel free to recommend more useful books in the comments. And thank you, as always, for reading.

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