wabi reviews

BOOKS: The Story of Beautiful Girl

by Rachel Simon

wabi book: beautiful girl
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reviewed by Rachel Bennett

Readers may know Rachel Simon for her bestselling memoir, Riding the Bus With My Sister, but her latest novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl, may soon become her claim to fame.

The Story of Beautiful Girl follows the lives of three people who share a night together in 1968. Lynnie, the story’s “Beautiful Girl,” and Homan just escaped from the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded and found momentary refuge at the home of Martha, a widow and retired schoolteacher. Lynnie is a young white woman born with a developmental disability; she speaks only a few words. Homan is an African-American man who’s deaf. They’re in love. They recently delivered Lynnie’s child, but Homan is not the father – somebody else from the school is.

Soon after Martha welcomes them into her home, the authorities find the couple. Lynnie is captured, but Homan is able to get away. The authorities, unaware there is a baby in the house, take Lynnie back to the institution, leaving Martha to care for Lynnie’s child. For the next 40 years, The Story of Beautiful Girl traces their attempts to be reuinited.
Some authors would use Lynnie and Homan’s disabilities to garner sympathy, but Simon uses them to empower her characters. It’s through adversity that Lynnie, Homan and Martha gain strength and develop a special bond.

Simon’s novel flows from Martha, Lynnie and Homan’s points of view, letting the reader know that though miles and years separate them, they are constantly in one another’s thoughts. This technique also gives a voice to these characters, who, before the night they met, were voiceless.

Simon cleverly plays on perception, describing characters by a sole trait, such as “a widow” or “the woman,” before revealing their names. This allows readers to recognize the perceptions they make of others and see they must look beyond labels to find all that is beneath the surface.

You don’t have to be a part of the special needs community to enjoy this beautiful and intriguing novel. The Story of Beautiful Girl reinforces an important lesson we should all follow: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Top 5 Books

These books had us laughing, crying and ultimately celebrating these strong and charismatic characters, so we wanted to share them with you.

  • House Rules

    By: Jodi Picoult
    Released: 2010

  • The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

    By: Kim Edwards
    Released: 2006

  • Up High in the Trees

    By: Kiara Brinkman
    Released: 2008

  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

    By: David Wroblewski
    Released: 2009

  • Handle with Care

    By: Jodi Picoult
    Released: 2009

MOVIES: Temple Grandin

wabi mobie: temple grandin
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reviewed by Carson Blackwelder

Inspiring people don’t always make for the most inspiring movies. Luckily, this is not the case for Temple Grandin.

In this biopic, Claire Danes stars as the titular character Temple Grandin — an American doctor of animal science, professor at Colorado State University, best-selling author and noted authority when it comes to animal behavior questions. The catch? Grandin suffers from high-functioning autism.

If she were born today, Grandin would be diagnosed with autism; however, when she was a child, her condition was considered a form of schizophrenia. Life is not only rough for Grandin, but it’s also emotional for her mother, Eustacia, played by Julia Ormond.

Eustacia, like other mothers of the 1950s, is blamed for her child’s disabilities. Mothers of children with disorders were called “refrigerator mothers,” because society viewed them as cold and aloof toward their children. Eustacia refuses to accept that stigma and does everything she can to help her daughter adapt.

The film begins with Grandin visiting her aunt’s farm. It is here that she falls in love with two things: animals, because they think “like her,” and a machine that “hugs cows,” calming them down.

This concept reoccurs throughout Grandin’s life, calming her during panic attacks in her childhood, college years and beyond. She designs a similar “squeeze machine,” made for people who suffer from a sensory integration dysfunction.

Her many inventions and theorems highlight Grandin’s revolution of the cattle and slaughter industries. The film culminates in an emotional and inspiring speech from Grandin at an autism convention.

Claire Danes dazzles the audience and raises the standard of Hollywood actors who play characters with special needs. She breathes life into her character and delivers not only a believable portrayal, but also an inspiring one. The audience feels the emotional struggle Grandin faces and joins in her successes and triumph over adversity.

If you are in need of a rousing film that will leave you in good spirits, check out Temple Grandin.

Top 5 Movies

Flicks that inspire you to get up and face adversity head-on.

  • Rory O’Shea Was Here

    Directed by: Damien O’Donnell
    Starring: James McAvoy, Romola Garai and Steven Robertson
    Released: 2004
    Rating: R

  • The King’s Speech

    Directed by: Tom Hooper
    Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce
    Released: 2010
    Rating: R

  • Adam

    Directed by: Max Mayer
    Starring: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher
    Released: 2009
    Rating: PG-13

  • Front of the Class

    Directed by: Peter Werner
    Starring: James Wolk, Treat Williams and Patricia Heaton
    Released: 2008
    Rating: N/A (Made-for-TV Movie)

  • My Left Foot

    Directed by: Jim Sheridan
    Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Kirsten Sheridan
    Released: 1989
    Rating: R