Reviews for Following Ezra : What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism and Love from His Extraordinary Son

Booklist Reviews 2011 August #1
"In this sweet, funny memoir about his son, a former People magazine writer and editor manages to destigmatize autism better than any medical book has been able to do. His son, blessed with an amazing memory, asks people for their date of birth, then rapidly names a film released on that day: "Movie-came-out-on-your-birthday-was ‘Beauty and the Beast,' November 13, 1991." But such anecdotes never get saccharine, since Fields-Meyer also gives the not-always-happily-ever-after denouement, in this case adding, "The encounters are considerably less compelling when he discovers that an acquaintance was born in, say, mid-September or early January, annual lulls in animated movie releases." Another charming tidbit: In his acknowledgments, the author thanks his son for helping him pinpoint when an event occurred: "‘That was in April of 2004,' he'd say, ‘a Sunday, three weeks after the release of Disney's ‘Home on the Range.' If you ever consider writing a memoir, I highly recommend enlisting the help of someone with a superhuman memory." This is an uplifting book that can be highly recommended to parents of kids with autism." Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #1

A father celebrates his son's differences and advises others on how to view autism as a parallel journey rather than a restrictive label.

Chronicling son Ezra's toddler years through his bar mitzvah, journalist Fields-Meyer (Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today's Entrepreneur, 2009, etc.) approaches autism from a topical perspective, creating a loving tribute that favors "following" his son's interests instead of imposing behavioral or social expectations. Subjects range from the initial diagnosis to Ezra's deep enchantment with animals, and from learning to read to the rewards and challenges of parenting a child who is spirited and unfiltered in his expressions. This is not the average medical memoir concerned with educating the public, nor does it trace a common tragedy-to-triumph trajectory; the author strongly emphasizes supporting Ezra himself over the condition. Advised early on to "grieve for the child he didn't turn out to be," Fields-Meyer quickly realized that there was nothing to grieve, and no sense of blame. Together with his wife and Ezra's brothers, he adapted to life at a slower pace, allowing frustration and wonderment alike to play out naturally. Characteristics of autism, which can include repetition, fixation, facial nuances, lessened eye contact and a superb memory for obscure minutiae are not treated as symptoms to normalize but as opportunities to enter Ezra's world—whether that means learning the running times of animated films or appreciating honest insights.

Determinedly upbeat, the author depicts parenting with grace and every child as a gift.

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

When their middle-son Ezra was 2, Fields-Meyer and wife Shawn (parents of two other boys, Ari and Noam) grew concerned about his unusual behavior. Ezra avoided eye contact, was non-communicative, and demonstrated serious difficulty coping with stimuli or engaging "normally." After he was diagnosed with autism the following year, Fields-Meyer and his wife worked with Ezra's teachers and friends to help him integrate into the wider world as much as possible. While Ezra struggled with aspects of social interaction (like tact), his gift for numbers, lists, and minutiae eventually allowed him to interact with people in ways his parents never expected. They never tried to force him into a mold of "normal" behavior, and everyone benefited from this approach. Fields-Meyer's touching memoir ends with Ezra's bar mitzvah, an event that both signaled the end of his childhood, and served as a benchmark of his ability to function in surprising ways. Neither terror nor saint, the charming Ezra's triumphs are more remarkable for their lack of super-human accomplishment, illustrating how ordinary families can persevere and thrive with love and patience. (Sept.)

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