Meet Terrell Dougan?s sister, Irene: a woman in her sixties who still believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?but who also enjoys playing those characters for the children at the local hospital; whose favorite outfit, which she?ll sneak into whenever Terrell?s back is turned, consists of Mickey Mouse kneesocks and shorts; who wins over the neighborhood kids by hosting two fire trucks at her lemonade stand; whose fridge bears a magnet: NORMAL PEOPLE WORRY ME.
When Irene was born, her parents were advised to institutionalize her. They refused and instead became trailblazers in advocating for the rights of people with mental disabilities. The entire family benefited, with a life rich in stress, sorrows, hilarity, joy, and overwhelming kindness from strangers. Terrell has found that the only way to get through the difficult moments is to laugh?even in the most trying of times. In her moving, funny, and unforgettable memoir about life with Irene, Terrell Dougan shows that love, humor, and compassion are enough to heal us, every single day.
?Terrell Dougan writes with humor, humanity, and complete honesty. In this tale of two sisters?one who never gives up her dolls, one who never loses her pluck?she takes readers on a thought-provoking, endearing journey through life. Along the way, she shows readers the changing social attitudes of the last half-century, and her personal odyssey from resistance to acceptance.?
?Rachel Simon, author of Riding the Bus with My Sister
?With heartache and humor, tenderness and honesty, Dougan inspires us to remember the kindness, joy, and grace that forever remain life?s possibility.?
?Andrew Bridge, author of Hope?s Boy
?Enormously touching, funny, wise, breathtakingly honest, and compellingly readable.?
?Judith Viorst, author of Forever Fifty
?Funny, and wonderful, and horrible, and happy and sad.?
?Muffy Mead-Ferro, author of Confessions of a Slacker Mom
?Irene is a very special lady who makes others feel better about lots of things.?
?Kim Peek, the original model for Rain Man
“Born during a relentless Utah electrical storm in 1946, Irene would spend hours in her crib, silently staring at her hands, and didn’t take a step until she was almost two years old. She was more than simply “slow,” but the devoutly Mormon Harris family wallowed in denial about their impaired, cross-eyed daughter until her first day in kindergarten, when a teacher immediately said she needed to be tested. Irene was classified as “mentally disabled,” with an IQ of 57, but her parents refused to place her in the grim state institution. They kept Irene at home, where her violent tantrums and confusion became commonplace. Six years older than her sister, the author responded with “protective anger” whenever anyone asked what was wrong with Irene. Her teenaged years were tricky, as she attempted to date boys and corral her sister’s erratic behavior. Caring for Irene became increasingly cumbersome as her mother’s arthritis worsened and doting grandma “Bammy” aged, so at age 20 she was placed in a special California school, where she spent six years before being expelled for violent behavior. The author, by then married with two young daughters, began writing a column in the local newspaper and became an advocate for the integration of special-needs children into public schools. She tirelessly shouldered the responsibility for both Irene and her severely disabled mother, spending years teaching her sister everything from how to manage her diabetes and high blood pressure to finding employment. Dougan gets very personal in the final sections, exposing the nerve and dedication necessary to foster independence in a sibling with special needs.
A touching, surprisingly funny tough-love narrative.”
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