Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Lessons From Katherine

In recent years, a new genre in disability related literature has emerged.  While not scholarly in nature, lessons can yet be extracted.  This new narrative emerges from the perspective of the parent of a child with disability - most often the mother.  One such story is Lessons from Katherine, written in an easy conversational style by Glenda W. Prins, an ordained United Church of Christ minister.

Lessons from Katherine is not a recounted biography of the adopted daughter Katherine, but an up close and vulnerable 157 page diary of the author’s spiritual struggles through life in a context tempered by disability.  In fact the story is not focused on the multiple disabilities of Katherine, but on the inability of the author to cope with lost dreams.

Inability defines this work – inability to achieve ordination as a female, to conceive a child, to navigate the complex bio-medical world successfully, to keep a business afloat, to sustain a marital relationship, and to communicate openly with God.  Yet despite these disabling conditions, the author eventually finds resolution within the tension: ordination is achieved, businesses become restored, relationships are reconciled and new life emerges.  The human journey is messy yet redeemable.

Lessons from Katherine unveils a seldom lifted curtain on the emotional stress families affected by disability undergo.  It reveals the mindset behind a parent doing whatever it takes for their child.  Do not look for pithy comforting statements in this book – it is full of anguish and emotion.  Nor is this a guidebook – lessons learned are not articulated to be replicated.  Perhaps the major insight gleaned is reflected in the epilogue – experience with disability does not make one a better person, but a different one.

As a parent of a child with a disability, I can relate all too well to these genuine scenarios. As a disability advocate, I see how much further society must go. As I read and compare the blogs of young moms today, however, I am struck by the difference in tone and hope.  This book is an important historical reminder of the accomplishments made through the pain of the previous generation.

For professionals in the special education or human disability service sector who desire to understand real family dynamics, this book provides a partial glimpse.  Yet this is not just for professionals or those impacted by disability.  It is a journal of how a person develops a faithful spiritually, tears and all, during times of continual crisis. Spiritual journeys are often personal.  This memoir will comfort some and create questions in others – but can be worth the time to read.

[This review is updated  from the one provided to the publisher - for original review, click here.]