Summary and book reviews of To Siri with Love by Judith Newman

To Siri with Love

A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines

by Judith Newman

To Siri with Love by Judith Newman X
To Siri with Love by Judith Newman
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  • Published:
    Aug 2017, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of the viral New York Times op-ed column "To Siri with Love" comes a collection of touching, hilarious, and illuminating stories about life with a thirteen-year-old boy with autism that hold insights and revelations for us all.

When Judith Newman shared the story of how Apple's electronic personal assistant, Siri, helped Gus, her son who has autism, she received widespread media attention and an outpouring of affection from readers around the world. Basking in the afterglow of media attention, Gus told anyone who would listen, "I'm a movie star."

Judith's story of her son and his bond with Siri was an unusual tribute to technology. While many worry that our electronic gadgets are dumbing us down, she revealed how they can give voice to others, including children with autism like Gus - a boy who has trouble looking people in the eye, hops when he's happy, and connects with inanimate objects on an empathetic level.

To Siri with Love is a collection of funny, poignant, and uplifting stories about living with an extraordinary child who has helped a parent see and experience the world differently. From the charming (Gus weeping with sympathy over the buses that would lie unused while the bus drivers were on strike) to the painful (paying $22,000 for a behaviorist in Manhattan to teach Gus to use a urinal) to the humorous (Gus's insistence on getting naked during all meals, whether at home or not, because he does not want to get his clothes dirty) to the profound (how an automated "assistant" helped a boy learn how to communicate with the rest of the world), the stories in To Siri with Love open our eyes to the magic and challenges of a life beyond the ordinary.

INTRODUCTION

My kids and I are at the supermarket. "We need turkey and ham!"

Gus tends to speak in exclamation points. "A half pound! And . . . what, Mommy?" I'm stage-whispering directions, trying to keep the conversation focused on deli meats. Behind the counter, Otto politely slices and listens, occasionally interjecting questions. We're on track here.

And then . . . we're not.

"So! My daddy has been in London for ten days, and he comes back in four days, on Wednesday. He comes in to JFK Airport on American Airlines Flight 100, at Terminal Eight," Gus says, warming to the subject. "What? Yes, Mom says thin slices. Also, coleslaw! Daddy will take the A train from Howard Beach to West 4th and then change to the B or D to Broadway–Lafayette. He'll arrive at 77 Bleecker in the morning and then he and Mommy will do sex . . ."

Suddenly Otto is interested. "What?"

"You know, my daddy? The one who is old and has bad knees? He arrives at Terminal Eight at ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I wholeheartedly recommend To Siri With Love for all audiences. Reading groups in particular will find it a good candidate for discussion. The book likely won't radically alter most people's views about autism sufferers and their loved ones. It will, however, bring more understanding as people come to know the author and her truly remarkable son.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

New York Times

Newman is courageous in exposing herself, humorous (if a bit flippant) in rendering pain, and ingenious in enlisting every feature of her family life to show that autistic people, like the rest of the Newman ensemble, are different, not less...

Washington Post

[A] bracingly honest chronicle of life alongside an autistic family member. For the many parents raising children with autism, the book offers both empathy and comic relief. But readers of all backgrounds will find it just as engaging

Library Journal

Parents of a child on the autism spectrum as well as caregivers, siblings, and extended family will benefit from reading this uplifting title. Suitable for any library with parenting and autism collections.

Kirkus Reviews

A powerful and heartfelt 'slice of life' tale.

Author Blurb Nigella Lawson
A moving and witty memoir with a big heart.

Author Blurb Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion
I was riveted ... Yes, this is a book about a boy. But more than that, it's a book about the myriad - and sometimes magical - lenses there are through which to see the world. I finished it with different eyes than the ones I began with.

Author Blurb Sandra Tsing Loh, author of The Madwoman in the Volvo
To Siri with Love is a 'major chord' memoir in a sometimes 'minor chord' world (in the words of our hero Gus). Beautiful, hilarious, and touching, Newman's journey is universally relatable ... This book is 123.57 percent (and that may reflect my own spectrum issues) wonderful!

Author Blurb Annabelle Gurwitch, author of Wherever You Go, There They Are
Resistance is futile. Cancel your plans when you pick up this book because you'll want to read it cover to cover.

Author Blurb Laura Zigman, author of Animal Husbandry
By turns hilarious and compassionate, To Siri with Love is one of the most moving books about modern parenthood ever written.

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Beyond the Book

Personal Device Assistants

In Judith Newman's To Siri With Love, one of the book's chapters conveys how important the personal digital assistant has become to the author's son, Gus.

Palm TX personal digital assistant According to Britannica.com a personal digital assistant (PDA) is "a handheld organizer used to store contact information, manage calendars, communicate by e-mail, and handle documents and spreadsheets, usually in communication with the user's personal computer." In the 1990s, the devices were digitized versions of pen-and-paper organizers, one of the more popular being the Palm Pilot released in 1996. As hand-held computing became more advanced with the advent of smartphones, PDAs have evolved as well. Apple's Siri was the first widely known of this new type of virtual assistant.

...

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