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The Shape Of The Eyes A Memoir (2013)

by George Estreich(Favorite Author)
3.76 of 5 Votes: 2
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
review 1: I felt like the author was trying so hard to invoke some sort of emotion from me as a reader, but his writing style was so disconnected that I couldn't feel anything at all. I wanted to hear about Laura as a person, but Estreich treats her like some creature he's observing from a great distance. The story was there, but he completely missed it in all of his philosophical ramblings about chromosomes and the history of Down syndrome.
review 2: When Estreich's daughter Laura was born with Down Syndrome, he found himself writing a memoir instead of the poetry that had made up such a significant part of his life and professional career. This memoir is a reflection on Laura's personhood, a pondering of the way her genes and family history shaped who she is as a pers
... moreon. While his ultimate purpose and conclusion is to emphasize Laura's unique and valuable identity, he does spend more time exploring his own responses to her diagnosis and its impact on his other relationships. In some ways, I felt that Laura was still distant because of the focus of the memoir on her father's own internal paradigm shift, and I found it difficult to stick with at times. But overall I appreciated the honest glimpse into his experiences when faced with such an unexpected diagnosis. Estreich seems subtlely skeptical about religion, so I was particularly interested in reflecting on his natural sense of the value of all that Laura is. In the introduction, Estreich says, "If Down syndrome were ordinary in the world, if a commonsense view of dignity and personhood and capability prevailed, then perhaps our early days would have been easier. But Down syndrome is not ordinary in the world." As he considers the ways and metaphors of understanding Laura as a person, Estreich questions the idea of "normal" and ultimately concludes that "everyone of us exists on a continuum of ability." Accordingly, he posits that it is impossible to treat a person with a disability, or any person, as a known entity: "I believe not only that people with Down syndrome deserve to be known differently, but that their individual mysteries, and the mystery of their individuality, should be respected...We should not deny to others the individuality and sense of possibility that we ourselves take for granted." In spite of these assertions, Estreich chooses to avoid the hot-button political issues related to Laura's life (I assumed he meant prenatal testing and subsequent abortion). He cautions about the technology used to diagnose Down syndrome in the womb and points to drugs in clinical trials as evidence that we should be using our scientific capacities to look for ways to help people with Down syndrome instead of ways to find and eliminate them. But his philosophical approach in general is one of deconstruction and subjectivity, so he does not feel comfortable moving from his assertion that Laura's life is unique and valuable to an assertion that all human life is unique and valuable. I struggled with this quite a bit, and found my own objections expressed in what I was reading in Lumen Fidei at the same time: "Truth itself, the truth which would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society, is regarded with suspicion... In the end, what we are left with is relativism, in which the question of universal truth...is no longer relevant." It was this rejection of universal truth that I found very frustrating. Still, I learned from this book, especially because even if our philosophical frameworks were different, Estreich and I arrived at a similar conclusion about the dignity and potential of a unique human life. In Lumen Fidei, the Pope also spoke to this deep sense of meaning that all hearts can grasp: "The question of truth is really a question of memory, deep memory, for it deals with something prior to ourselves and can succeed in uniting us in a way that transcends our petty and limited individual consciousness. It is a question about the origin of all that is, in whose light we can glimpse the goal and thus the meaning of our common path."I appreciated the opportunity to learn from this Dad and his family and to reflect on everything he challenged me to think about. Estreich was motivated by the desire to simply have the conversation, and I respect his courage in putting himself out there as a starting point. less
Reviews (see all)
Interesting the parts about his daughter, not so much the research stuff
Interesting perspective from father's point of view
Great read! I recommend it to everyone.
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