October is Autism Awareness month in Canada. This yearly campaign puts a spotlight on autism which is a cause that is near and dear to my heart as a parent to a child on the autism spectrum. One of my favourite authors Lisa Genova, has created a new work of fiction that tackles yet another mystery of the human brain. She addressed the topic of early onset Alzheimer's in her novel STILL ALICE and dealt with the subject of traumatic brain injury in her novel LEFT NEGLECTED. Her new novel LOVE ANTHONY was inspired by her cousin's son who has autism. I found the story in LOVE ANTHONY to be very touching and I have to admit, almost too real to read at times. Being an autism mom, it hit so close to home when it came to one of the character's perspective. Don't get me wrong, this novel is not at all sappy but rather spot on and I give a major tribute to the author who has brilliant writing and used her thorough research skills and drew upon her personal connection to autism to develop a superb novel. Lisa's story gives an excellent portrayal of an autism parent's experience and shows just how autism tends to shape and influence a person's life experience and even displays how sometimes this can be for the better. Whether you're an autism parent who has been there and done that, someone with a loved one on the spectrum, or just a person who wants to be enlightened by a story with an autism view, then this novel is for you. There are many more layers to the LOVE ANTHONY story. Read on and view the video to learn about the two women in the story who share their losses and learn from each other.
Lisa Genova is on her book tour but somehow she found the time in her hectic schedule to answer some questions for me and I'm glad to have this platform to share her answers with my readers. Check out my interview with Lisa where she shares her experience writing LOVE ANTHONY and make sure you check out the video interview with Lisa for even more insights.
Interview With Lisa Genova
Books play a big part in the lives of the two main fictional characters in LOVE ANTHONY. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon, The Siege by Clara Claiborne, and Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg are some of the books referenced in the novel. Did you happen to read House Rules by Jodi Picoult? What other books have influenced you as a writer?
I have not yet read House Rules. I read Stephen King’s On Writing and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way before I begin writing each novel. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks is the book that first inspired my passion for neuroscience. Dancing with Dementia by Christine Bryden taught me so much about living with Alzheimer’s. Don’t Leave Me This Way by Julia Fox Garrison gave me tremendous insight into Left Neglect. And The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is the book on autism I wish I’d read first. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is an extraordinary example of the power of blending science and humanity in story.
Your novel Still Alice tackles the difficult topic of early-onset Alzheimer’s and Left Neglected deals with traumatic brain injury. Did either of these stories affect the story development for LOVE ANTHONY?
I do a lot of research for all of my books (reading everything I can, interviewing the medical community, talking to families who live with the condition), but the development of Love Anthony was definitely different than the previous two books. When I was writing Still Alice and Left Neglected, I always felt like I could lean on my neuroscience background when I needed it. I could go to the textbooks and the medical community for scientific information about Alzheimer’s or Neglect and traumatic brain injury, and, as a fledgling writer, I found this comforting. With Love Anthony, I was very much aware that I was writing without this safety net. There is no neuroscience textbook on autism. And the structure of this story is far more complex than my previous two books. With Still Alice and Left Neglected, I was a neuroscientist writing a novel. With Love Anthony, I became a novelist.
As a parent to a young man on the autism spectrum I too have been drawn to books on the subject of autism just like your character Olivia. Why did you choose to write about this complex topic?
This book began with Anthony, a boy with autism who doesn’t speak, inspired by my cousin’s beautiful autistic son, Anthony. My cousin and I are close, and my oldest daughter and Anthony are the same age. We spent much of their baby and early childhood years together. So, as with Still Alice, this story sprang from a deeply personal place.
Outside of encouraging autism awareness, what else do you hope the readers will take away from the story in LOVE ANTHONY?
Much of the focus on autism, especially among people who aren’t all that familiar with it (like Beth at first), is on all the ways that autistic people are different from typical people. The focus is on what is strange or abnormal or even tragic. I wanted to shed light on what is the same among all of us, whether you have autism or not. How do we connect as human beings with each other? Are we all capable of this? What happens when we can’t or won’t or give up on connecting? How effective are you at communicating how you feel and what you want? What happens when we find a way to truly understand and accept each other? Do you love the people you love without condition?
Lisa will be making several appearances on her book tour. Check out Lisa's tour dates here and note the Canadian dates: October 5, 2012 at the Indigo Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West at 6:30pm in Toronto, Ontario, October 6, 2012 at Costco Nepean, 1849 Merivale Road at 12:00pm in Nepean, Ontario and October 13, 2012 at Chapters, 788 Robson Street at 2:00pm in Vancouver, British Columbia. To read from the novel you are welcome to browse inside Love Anthony from the Simon & Schuster Canada website.
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