by Clara Claiborne Park
Little, Brown, 2001
Review by Elizabeth Batt on Mar 21st 2002
Until the advent of Rain Man
(1988) and Dustin Hoffmans superb portrayal of an autistic adult,
society was and may still be, ignorant about the disorder known as autism. In Exiting Nirvana A Daughters Life
with Autism, Clara Claiborne Park, mother of autistic Jessy reintroduces
her daughter to us as an adult. In her
previous book The
Siege: A Familys Journey into the World of an Autistic Child, first
published in 1967, Claiborne Park detailed the first eight years of Jessys
life in Nirvana a world of detachment where thoughts and emotions are
perceived differently from the given norm.
Jessy is now over forty years of
age and both mother and daughter have trodden a difficult path in their quest
to exit Nirvana -- At times we have the eerie feeling that Jessy is a Martian,
a visitor from some pure planet where feelings do not exist. (p. 140).
Clara Claiborne Park effectively
shares that journey with us, a journey that illustrates autism like never
Autism until recently was a
relatively obscure disorder that has gained more notoriety through
acknowledgement and the dispelling of myths.
While we might now know an autistic child, autism is still not easily
defined. With few specifics, the battle
to understand a condition that has no borders, boundaries or extents is
What Claiborne Park offers in this
book is autism presented with a depth that will appeal equally to professionals
and parents of autistic children alike.
For the study of autism, this book
is certainly a must read. While autism
cannot be so simply clarified, the parental views offered, coupled with timely
references to statistical data, studies and further research recommendations,
present the layman with an initial understanding of autism without the
difficulty of having to transcend terminology.
Then there is Jessy! Jessy is indeed the main character of this
book and what a character she is. The
words written are very much the work of Jessys mother, but there is little
doubt as to whom the star is. Jessy
will enthrall you with her simplicity and dazzle you with an intelligence that
is beyond our comprehension. Youll
champion her cause as the author successfully imparts the importance of what to
many might seem a trivial breakthrough Yet this week I heard something
better. I heard her say, Come
Words I had to wait forty years for. (p. 62).
To gain full measure of this book I
would certainly initially recommend reading The Siege: A Familys Journey
into the World of an Autistic Child before tackling this one. Although this
book stands very well alone, the reading of Jessys first eight years with
autism will complement and highlight the achievements and tremendous steps that
Jessy and her mother have taken in their efforts to exit Nirvana.
Clara Claiborne Park has led the
way in traversing the intricacies of autism.
While the disorder itself has not been completely conquered, Claiborne
Park presents a clearer path through the mist and mysteries of autism. This
book is a guiding light through Nirvana, the making of self-awareness. It is
highly recommended for those seeking development in their autistic loved ones.
ã 2002 Elizabeth Batt
Batt, Managing Editor Ancient & European History, Suite101.com