All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Boomer & Me – Jo Case

on May 13, 2013

Boomer & MeBoomer & Me
Jo Case
Hardie Grant
2013, 334p
Copy courtesy of the publisher/The Reading Room.com

Jo is a single mother of Leo, in his second year of primary school. She shares custody with Leo’s dad in an amicable arrangement that seems to work well for all involved and works, often from home, as a freelance writer and editor of a newsletter for a bookshop. Leo didn’t seem to have many problems in kindergarten but now that he’s moved up a year, there seems to be some issues with fitting in.

Although intelligent, Leo’s social skills often seem lacking and although his antics often win him friends in the schoolyard, sometimes things go awry. Perhaps due to his upbringing, Leo has always been treated more like an adult than a child and he seems to have an easier time relating to and conversing with them. He’s also happy to be alone, playing with toys that he becomes incredibly interested in.

When a teacher suggests getting him tested, a fleeting thought crosses Jo’s mind but it is some time before the steps are taken to assess Leo and see if there is an underlying issue. Leo is officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Jo has some trouble with the label because of what she fears it will mean both for Leo and also even for herself. As an Asperger’s child, she fears that is all Leo might ever be – he won’t be judged or assessed on his intelligence, his cheeky sense of humour or any of his other attributes. He will be the child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Leo’s diagnosis also results in Jo analysing her own traits and behaviour and that of several of her family members.

I’m not the mother of an Asperger’s child, nor do I know anyone officially diagnosed. I don’t know what it’s like to be given the news about your child and what it might mean. This book does give something of an insight – the worry for Leo’s lack of ability to sometimes relate to other children, what the diagnosis might mean for him in school and in life outside of it, dealing with other parents who may not understand Leo’s little quirks. Leo in particular has trouble with team sports, often becoming very angry or distressed during his Auskick game (an adaptation of AFL, an Australian football very popular in the state of Victoria where both Jo Case and I live).  Likewise in school, he often has issues when kicking a ball around with other kids.

At times I sympathised heavily with Jo, especially when she was bewildered about how best to help Leo, or how best to advocate for him, particularly with a teacher who didn’t seem to grasp the situation. She and Leo obviously have an incredibly strong bond and her relationship with her former partner, Leo’s father, is utterly admirable. It can be extremely difficult to keep a civil relationship after a breakdown, especially when there is a child involved. Jo and Mark seem to both do their absolute best to maintain a friendship in their devotion to Leo and Mark shares the parenting duties. He’s often more passive than Case is.

To be honest, some of the scenes where Case confronts other parents, or teachers, or rants about them behind their back were a touch alarming. We all lose our tempers, all might swear in front of our kids sometimes. I like the fact that this was explored and that Case obviously took great pains to present things as honestly as she could – there was no attempt to hide any part of her. However it did make some of the scenes particularly unenjoyable to read – there’s advocating for your child and then there’s just losing it that little bit. However the answers did come for her about why she may have experienced these losses of temper and about her own social awkwardness and the fact that she often had to screw up huge amounts of courage in social or professional situations.

This is a no holds barred parenting memoir, about more than just a diagnosis of Asperger’s. I live quite close to where most of this book takes place and there was an easy familiarity in the surroundings, the local “culture” so to speak. However it’s not really a book that I can assign a rating to – I think that it would be very helpful, very enlightening for anyone in the same position as Case found herself and I’d recommend it to anyone if I ever knew someone in that position. It really does embrace all the myriad of emotions that she feels and that Leo feels as well, and other relatives as well – Leo’s father, his stepfather, his grandparents etc. It’s an interesting story.

Book #119 of 2013

AWW2013

Boomer & Me is the 51st novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

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4 responses to “Boomer & Me – Jo Case

  1. […] month James Tierney and Bree reviewed a memoir that focuses on the issues of autism, Boomer & Me by Jo Case.  It shows the […]

  2. […] reviews during May of books that showcase diversity include Bree’s post on Boomer and Me, Jo Case’s memoir about raising her son, Leo, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.  Bree […]

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