Oliver Sacks called The Siege: A Family's Journey into the World of an Autistic Child "one of the finest personal accounts of autism, and still the best--beautiful and intelligent." Now, in Exiting Nirvana, Clara Claiborne Park continues the story of her daughter Jessy. In this moving, eloquent memoir, we see Jessy's progressive journey out of her isolated "Nirvana" into the world we all share. It is an honest and captivating story of emergence, perseverance, and love.
Jessy Park, now an adult, still struggles with language, with hypersensitivities and obsessions, and with the social interactions that ordinary people take for granted but that she cannot understand. With the help of family, teachers, and friends, Jessy has achieved more than her parents could have hoped for. She has left behind the extraordinary repetitive calculations of her autism for the utilitarian tasks of determining her share of the grocery bill and balancing her checkbook. She has grown into an accomplished artist--her astonishing paintings transfigure the ordinary world with the rainbow colors of Nirvana. More important, she has overcome her social handicaps enough to hold a job, becoming not a burden but a contributing, active member of her family and community. Exiting Nirvana is a luminous, moving story about the making of a self and what it means to be human, an account Jessy's mother must tell for her, since she cannot tell it for herself. But most of all it is a remarkable story of growth, not only in Jessy but in everyone who has touched her and whom she has touched.
How to begin? In bewilderment, I think --that's the truest way. That's where we began, all those years ago. That's where everyone begins who has to do with autistic children. And even now, when my daughter is past forty...
This morning, at breakfast, Jessy reports an exciting discovery. It's a word. She doesn't say it quite clearly, but it's recognizable: "remembrance." "A new fluffy-in-the-middle! Found in the newspaper! It is fluffy in the middle!" Her voice is triumphant, her face is alight. "I saw one! With five on each side!" Leave that unexplained, in all its strangeness. For now. Shift to something less bizarre. Somewhat less bizarre.
Jessy is painting a church. Her acrylics are neatly arranged on the table beside her. With her sable brush and steady hand she has rendered every brick, every curlicue of the Corinthian capital, every nick and breakage in the old stone, accurately, realistically, recognizably. Except that the ...
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