The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal by Jonathan Mooney

Short_busSo, you consider yourself to be pretty normal, right? Well, you might ask, that depends on what you mean by “normal.”  That’s exactly the issue Jonathan Mooney explores in his memoir The Short Bus.

Mooney didn’t learn to read until age 12 and was labeled “severely learning disabled.” Although he later went to Brown University and graduated with honors, those feelings of inadequacy remained. So he purchased an old “short bus” (the kind that kids with disabilities sometimes ride), converted it to a makeshift RV and set off across America in search of others who are living their lives outside the lines. His literal and philosophical journey is both heart-rending and hopeful.

You’ll meet Ashley, a deaf and blind girl who curses out her teachers in sign language. You’ll spend some time with Katie, an adult with Down Syndrome who works at McDonald’s and hopes to get married, yet can’t be named in her parent’s will lest her potential for Social Security and Medicaid be threatened.  You’ll encounter Jeff, who times his days to the second and enjoys list-making, as well as many others along the way. Be aware that Mooney, and many of the people he meets, have led tormented lives. They don’t hesitate to describe their harsh experiences and express their emotions in brutally honest language. In the end, Mooney draws his own conclusions and so will you.  As for me, I think we’re all living out our own version of normal and doing the best that we can.  It sure would be nice if we could offer each other a bit of understanding along the way.

(Marya Ryals, Hemphill Branch)

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