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  • Writer's pictureDevyani Jadhav

Boy Alone, A Brother’s Memoir: Book Review

Boy Alone, A Brother’s Memoir, written by Karl Taro Greenfeld

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Sibling rivalry—and love—of a ravaging kind is the subject of this unsparing memoir of the author’s life with his severely autistic brother. Journalist Greenfeld (Standard Deviations) describes his brother, Noah, as a spitting, jibbering, finger-twiddling, head-bobbing idiot; unable to speak or clean himself and given to violent tantrums, Noah and his utter indifference to others makes him permanently alone. But Karl feels almost as alienated; with his parents preoccupied with Noah’s needs (and Noah’s celebrity after his father, Rajavi, wrote a bestselling account of his illness in A Child Called Noah), he turns to drugs and petty crime in the teenage wasteland of suburban Los Angeles. Greenfeld doesn’t flinch in his depiction of Noah’s raging dysfunctions or his critique of a callous mental health-care system and arrogant autism-research establishment. (He’s especially hard on the psychoanalytic theories of the Viennese charlatan Bruno Bettelheim.) But the author’s self-portrait is equally lacerating; he often wallows in self-pity—I return home stoned, drunk, puking on myself as I sit defecating into the toilet, crying to my parents… that I am a failure—and owns up to the coldness that Noah’s condition can provoke in him. The result is a bleak but affecting chronicle of a family simultaneously shattered and bound tight by autism.

This wonderful 5 star read is a great book for parents, family members, and professionals alike. Written in the perspective of an older sibling, you can experience the account of what it is like to have an autistic brother. Karl Greenfeld, son of writer Josh Greenfield, tells his side of the story and how Noah, his brother has shown him love, compassion, and purity.

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