"Reasonable People": On Poetry and the Politics of Breathing

Book Review:
by Stephen Kuusisto

Reasonable People: a Memoir of Autism & Adoption
By Ralph James Savarese
The Other Press

“My name is DJ and I am taking a trip of a lifetime.”

The line above appears in the journal of DJ Savarese who is the co-author of the memoir Reasonable People which has just been published by The Other Press.  The sub-title of the book is as important to culture as the title itself: “On the meaning of family and the politics of neurological difference”.  This timely book is about the Horatian life, “Life” written with a capital “L”.  Accordingly it is about family and the life of the mind; about poetry and the fierce resistance to stereotypes of people with autism.

Assuredly one can think of dozens of additional sub-titles for the book: Living Outside their Boxes; Unraveling the Outworn Tapestry of Academic Autism; A Prayer Wheel by Two Poets; or The Road of Salt and Honey.   

This is a memoir about “hard traveling” as Woody Guthrie would say, and yet it is far more than a narrative of trouble and triumph.  The poet, Ralph James Savarese, skillfully tells the story of his adoptive son DJ’s former life of physical and intellectual abuse and in turn and almost seamlessly tells the story of how he and his wife Emily must grow both intellectually and emotionally and yes, politically, since DJ’s autism is the kind of disability our culture has misunderstood throughout history.   

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