The Bottom Line
By Jonathan Mooney; 272 pages. Subtitle: A Journey Beyond Normal
On a 35,000 round-trip across the U.S. in one of those stubby special-ed buses, Mooney meets people who vary from society's ideal of "normal" in various ways, from a deaf-blind child in Virginia to a transgendered artist in Maine to a young woman with Down syndrome in Ohio -- all of whom have in common difficult school experiences, and more comfort in their own skins than Mooney's been able to muster. If you've wondered where your child fits in the world, the lessons the author learns here may benefit you and yours as well.
- Humorous, fast-paced memoir
- Features children and adults with a variety of disabilities
- Parents generally depicted as strong advocates for their children
- Gives child's-eye view of school challenges and torments
- Reflections on normalcy bear thinking about for parents, too
- Author's negative first impressions of some disabilities may be hurtful
- Periodic strong language may be offensive to some
- If you don't enjoy quirky characters and places, you may want off this bus
- Prologue: The Short-Bus Story
Part One: Everyone In Their Right Place
- 1. You Are Responsible for the Safe Operation and Cleanliness of This Vehicle
2. The Lightening Field
- 3. The Hole in the Door
4. Steel Boxes, Crushed Cars
- 5. The Sound of One Hand Clapping
6. Welcome Pest Controllers Association
- 7. How to Curse in Sign Language
8. I Don't Know, I Can't Remember, It Doesn't Seem to Matter Anymore
- Part Two: Burning Man
9. I Can't Remember to Forget You
- 10. The Turnaround Dance
11. Big Things, Little Things
- 12. Katie's Book of Life
13. Black Rock City's Bell Tree
- Part Three: The Eccentrics
14. Driftwood Beach
- 15. Things Not to Share -- at First
16. What Is Left, After What One Isn't Is Taken Away, Is What One Is
Guide Review - Book Review: The Short Bus
What's "normal"? That's a hard concept to define exactly, yet so many of us are desperate to gain that designation for our families and our children.
Jonathan Mooney spent much of his life striving to achieve it against long odds of learning disabilities and ADHD. He had the kind of success we might wish for our kids, finding "normalcy" first on the soccer field, then at an Ivy League University and as the co-author of the book Learning Outside the Lines. Yet he felt like an imposter, still smarting from early years on the "short bus" and outside society's realm of the acceptable.
In an effort to take a look at what departing from normal looks like, Mooney planned a meandering tour of the U.S. in one of those special-education buses, scheduling meetings with children with special needs and their families along the way, and some grown-up misfits as well. Most have had scarring school experiences, symbolized by that dreaded mode of transportation. Many have parents advocating for them, while others have found support and tolerance as adults in their communities.
In seeing how others have coped with and even celebrated their departures from the norm, Mooney begins to come to terms with which side of the line he wants to be on. It's a good line for parents of children with special needs to think about, too. It's not easy to read about the painful experiences of so many of those profiled here, and neither acting normal nor abandoning it offers an easy road. But there's an art to living life beyond normal, and Mooney does a good job of art appreciation.
If you're busy searching for a way to "fix" your child and ensure a perfect future, this memoir may make for frustrating reading. But if you've had it up to here with those repair manuals, hop on the bus for a fascinating vacation.