I did not read the book in 1983, when I was seven. I was precocious and a voracious reader of books about disability, but not quite that precocious. I probably got my copy in 1988 or 89, when I was about 12 myself.
Karen – for that is the name of the book, as well as the name of the child, well, person, really – was not my first introduction to cerebral palsy, since it had come up in some of the books I had read on disability in the children’s section of the library. It was my first in-depth look, however. So I delved right in.
It was also an early look at historical factors in disability, in a lot of ways, more immediate than the books I’d read about Helen Keller or Louis Braille in many ways. At some point, I realized that Karen was about the age of my parents. At every point, I realized the forward was written in my lifetime.
Karen’s parents were advised to place her in an institution. I’m not sure I’d previously realized that was something still done in this century. Which is to say that century, now that it’s the next century. At one point, they were told that the solution for cerebral palsy was known in China, which was to leave such children on a mountain top. That was a solution for disability I’d previously only encountered in history class in a description of ancient Sparta. I’d push these all off as things in the past, but a co-worker with two preteen children told me of bringing her infant daughter to a new pediatrician. She mentioned her older child had autism, and the doctor asked if he lived at home. (Yes, there are children with disabilities who do not currently live at home. No, this was not common enough in 2000 to have made it an OK thing to ask.)
Karen was written, and Karen took place, and Karen lived before the civil rights laws were passed to protect people with disabilities. Children with disabilities did not have a legal right to an education. Accessibility wasn’t expected pretty much anywhere. Karen’s parents, the book author, Marie Killilea and her husband, founded the group which later became United Cerebral Palsy. It was years before I encountered this organization again, and years further before I made the connection.
The language is at once old and new. The term “handicapped” was used. I know it’s supposed to make me cringe, but I’ve always actually preferred it to the term “disabled.” Killilea also describes a family meeting held around 1943, where they decided to always describe their daughter as “not being afflicted with cerebral palsy, but affected by cerebral palsy.” That’s pretty progressive for 1943.
Some of what we know about cerebral palsy has changed. We now only term something CP if the causative injury occurred in a developing brain, generally before, during or shortly after birth. Their doctor used the term more loosely to describe motor impairment caused by brain damage, including accidents or injury to adults. The categories of CP have changed some. The treatment recommendations have changed more than some. As I learned contemporary medical theories, I have had to unlearn my historical ones.
I recognized myself in the book in only one spot. I still do. It’s not in the description of spastic muscles, which I don’t have. It’s in the description of overflow, where one body part starts moving involuntarily when other parts are active. I was about 12 when I realized I had this after reading about it.
Karen is a high school graduate by the end of the sequel and over 40 by the time the forward was written. I’m nearing 40 myself now. Karen and I were children together in the text and are middle-aged together in the forward. Only Karen Killilea, who I believe is still alive, is really in her 70s.
I’ll probably read it again in a few years.
I am reading (re-reading) a book written in 1995. The book opens in 2058. It’s a cross between science fiction, mystery and romance. (I skim over the romance sections just enough to make sure I’m not missing any plot.)
I did not read the book when it first came out. I probably got my copy in 1998 or 1999. But it was written in 1995. I have to keep remembering that.
I’d describe the book – the series, really – as low to mid sci fi. It has regular trips to the moon but no aliens. The main character is a NY police detective who ends up marrying the richest man in the world. That’s a spoiler for the first book, but since the book was written in 1995 and there are now dozens in the series, I think it’s OK.
Their past is our future. There’s a made up Urban War. 9-11 never happened. Guns have been outlawed, which doesn’t stop people from killing each other, often more than once per book. Prostitution is legalized and regulated. Food is mostly vegetarian and there are shortages of chocolate, coffee, real meat. Some of the slang is exactly the same, and some is ours with the labels rubbed off. Hospitals are called “health centers,” which I suppose meant my former employer was forward thinking when it rebranded itself a Health System instead of a Hospital System. Or it may have been past thinking, since we don’t know when, between 1995 and 2058, this shift occurred.
The technology is at once strange and familiar. The protagnonist’s car flies, albeit not very well. It can drive itself, although it generally doesn’t. Self-driving cars were much less a possibility in 1995. I’m planning to own one now within a decade. I’m not sure cars will be person-drivable by 2058. I also don’t think they’ll fly. Androids supply some security and other functions. I’m not holding my breath for that one.
All phones are video phones. I believe that technology was rarely available in 1995. I thought then, and I think now, that enabling video as a default setting is simply absurd. No one should have to quickly say “video off” before answering a call from your boss while you are in your pajamas or birthday suit. Many people have mobile phones, called “links,” certainly many more than had them in 1995, but they aren’t as ubiquitous and functional as most cell phones are today. People still have to call multiple numbers to reach people. The police can’t easily trace mobile links to locate someone.
Texting hasn’t been invented yet. Or blogs. The police computer can calculate probabilities but it’s search engine can’t unearth nearly as much as Google. E-mail is a thing in 2058 (it was in1995, too) but computers are overall more independent than they are today. People have to constantly send each other information – or put it on discs – that today would be on a cloud drive of some sort. A police officer can’t just log in to access lab or ME reports but has to wait for them to be sent up.
There’s some serious tech handwaving. Police officers can apply “seal-it” to prevent leaving trace evidence at a crime site. There’s a drug, “Sober-Up” that does what it says. It’s not quite clear how Eve’s “weapon” works, except that it’s not a gun.
I’m not sure what I now expect from 2058. Regular trips to the moon? Anti-cancer shots? We’re talking about 40 years into the future. This series started about 20 years into our past, so it projects about 60 years. Things which seemed plausible to me then are laughable now. Or they’ve happened already. The plot takes a backseat to the worldbuilding.
I'm trying to read/re-read the whole series.
I re-read books. I always have. At one point in my own past, I stated that any book worth reading is worth re-reading. I don’t quite follow that anymore, but I do frequently revisit old friends.
I read quickly, which helps. I re-read both these books within about a week of each other. Of course, re-reading is probably faster than reading.
Yes, I reread murder mysteries. Sometimes I remember whodunit and sometimes I don’t, but I don’t particularly care either way. Regardless, I read mysteries to enjoy watching the protagonist figure it out, not to figure out what they figure out.
I notice new and different things each time. Sometimes I notice special little gems of phrasing I’d not caught before. Sometimes I notice continuity errors.
I change over time. What struck me in a book at 12 or 14, perhaps identifying with a child character, is different than my perspective nearing 40, identifying more with a parent character. Or perhaps I still see myself in that child, but as a “was” rather than an “is.” I know more over time. Consider what I know now about cerebral palsy, reading Karen, when once most of what I knew about cerebral palsy was from Karen.
Often, when I re-read, I remember my previous thoughts and life circumstances. There are books I never revisit without hearing in my head the music I sang in chorus that semester. There are books which bring me back immediately to 8, or 18, or 28.
And time changes over time, too. In my past week of rereading, in 2015, I’ve gone from 1940 to 1953, to 1983, to 1988, to 1995, to 2058. Reading about the past in the present, remembering reading about the past in the past. Reading about the future in the present, remembering reading about the future in the past.
So I’m left with platitudes. Past is prologue. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.
Or maybe I’m just left with a good book to read. (Re-read)