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Seeing Ezra is the soulful, beautifully written memoir of a mother’s fierce love for her autistic son, and a poignant examination of what it means to be “normal.” When Kerry Cohen’s son Ezra turns one, a babysitter suggests he may be “different,” setting her family on a path in which autism dominates their world. As he becomes a toddler and they navigate the often rigid and prescriptive world of therapy, Cohen is unsettled by the evaluations they undergo: At home, Ezra is playfully expressive, sharing profound, touching moments of connection and intimacy with his mother and other family members, but in therapy he is pathologized, prodded to behave in ways that undermine his unique expression of autism.
It soon becomes clear that more is at stake than just Ezra’s well-being; Cohen and her marriage are suffering as well. Ezra’s differentness, and the strain of pursuing varied therapies, takes a toll on the family—Cohen’s husband grows depressed and she pursues an affair—all as she tries to help others recognize and embrace Ezra’s uniqueness rather than force him to behave outside his comfort level. It isn’t until they abandon the expected, prescriptive notions about love, marriage, and individuality that they are able to come back together as two parents who fiercely love their little boy.
Powerful and eye-opening, Seeing Ezra is an inspirational chronicle of a mother’s struggle to protect her son from a system that seeks to compartmentalize and “fix” him, and of her journey toward accepting and valuing him for who he is—just as he is.
Reviews for Seeing Ezra:
“Most mothers have a few things in their arsenal to make the job go easier: instincts, honesty, and devotion. Some mothers, like Cohen, have even more: fierceness, attachment, and plain bravery. Seeing Ezra is the story of motherhood beyond all reserves. Bravo to Cohen for giving us such a deep, rich tale of motherhood.”
—Vicki Forman, author of This Lovely Life
“What is the experience of mothering an autistic child? And what is the experience of negotiating the world’s reaction that autism? This is a book to think with, a brave meditation on love and acceptance. Not just for mothers—this is a beautiful story about being human.”
—Ariel Gore, founding editor of Hip Mama and author of Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness
“Cohen writes an intense and penetrating story about the challenges of being the mother of a child who is classified outside the boundary of so-called ‘normal.’ Her honesty is gripping and heartbreaking, her struggles are laid bare for the reader and her perseverance—on behalf of her child—is inspiring. Seeing Ezra is an important book.
—Jennifer Lauck, author of the memoirs, Found and Blackbird
“I am not a mother and have never raised a special-needs child, yet Cohen’s frank memoir kept me riveted. She effortlessly transcends her personal story to show how we all are affected by traditional definitions of ‘normal.’”
—Brenda Miller, author of Blessing of the Animals and Season of the Body
“With unflinching honesty and immeasurable grace, Cohen leads the reader through the experience of parenting a different child. Cohen outlines with refreshing clarity the complicated world of a child on the autistic spectrum, but more than this, she poignantly builds a portrait of a wholly unique human being. Ultimately, Seeing Ezra is a love story and a portrait of Ezra as Ezra, with all the simplicity and complexity that entails. It is a story skillfully told by a mother who understands her son for who he is and for what he brings to the world on his own terms.
—Robert Rummel-Hudson, author of Schuyler’s Monster: A Father’s Journey with His Wordless Daughter