cover image Life as We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child

Life as We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child

Michael Berube. Pantheon Books, $24 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44223-3

The twofold purpose of this impassioned reportage by the parent of a child with Down's syndrome is eloquently achieved by Berube (Higher Education Under Fire). First, he paints a clear picture of his beloved son, Jamie, and of the first four years of his obstacle-strewn life; second, he thoughtfully raises difficult questions ""about our obligations to each other individually and socially, and about our capacity to imagine other people."" Berube's investigation into the contradictory social effects evoked by clinical procedures in utero, genetic testing and the whole concept of ""disabled"" children parallels the poignant, intimate chronicle of how he, his wife (also a Ph.D.) and older son cope with the challenge of raising Jamie, whom he describes as ""gradually emerging, like a slowly developing Polaroid of a child, into a vivid and indelible creature with a sense of humor."" Berube, a professor of English at the University of Illinois, frames advocacy and righteous anger with wry humor. In doing so, he accomplishes the difficult feat of combining an extraordinarily personal narrative with an intelligent, knowledgeable discussion of public issues raised by his private experience. (Oct.)