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How to Be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism by [Garvin, Eileen]
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How to Be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism Kindle Edition

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Length: 274 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description


“There is nothing gentle or elegiac about the tone of Eileen Garvin’s How to Be a Sister, and while there’s self-awareness, there’s a welcome lack of extended self-analysis. The focus instead is squarely on the author’s sister, Margaret, diagnosed as autistic at 3 years old. . . . Garvin’s storytelling abilities are strong, and her fierce, protective love for Margaret, whom she brings to stinging life on the page, gives this book real power.”
The Washington Post

“Autistic kids grow up to be autistic adults. They have brothers and sisters who grow up alongside them. This book is an unforgettable, courageous, and explicit sibling’s eye view into a rarely explored relationship, where the bond wrought by love and joy, crisis and heartbreak is mesmerizing.”
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith, author of Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir

“Although Eileen Garvin was the younger sister, she was expected to be responsible for Margaret. Now, as an adult, Eileen struggles to understand her unpredictable and effusive sister, and finds that no matter how much confusion and inner conflict she feels, she always returns to love. A poignant, thoughtful, and honest portrayal of life with a sibling who has autism.”
Rachel Simon, author of Riding the Bus with My Sister and Building a Home with My Husband

How to Be a Sister, told with amazing insight and compassion, is rich in the hilarious detail of coping with a beloved family member with special needs. Read this book. It will enrich your life.”
Terrell Harris Dougan, author of That Went Well: Adventures in Caring for My Sister

“Eileen Garvin’s portraits of her sister Margaret in chaotic action bring a rich identity into focus, an identity that includes autism―but also a wild and playful tug-of-war with the world that more truly defines Margaret. Bravo to Eileen for seeing and for enabling the rest of us to witness her sister’s creativity, purpose, and profoundly independent path.”
Judy Karasik, coauthor of The Ride Together: A Brother and Sister's Memoir of Autism in the Family

“Eileen Garvin has written a deeply reflective, generous book about her relationship with her older sister, Margaret, who has autism. A compelling description of how Garvin’s childhood experiences continued to influence her interactions with her sister many years later, it gracefully intertwines humor, pain, respect, and optimism. Eileen Garvin is open about her struggles, her love, her anger, her guilt, her fear, and her respect of her sister―as a child and as a woman. Every parent who is raising both a child with autism and a neurotypical child should read this book. So should every older teen or adult sibling of a person with autism. And so should all the rest of us who want to gain a greater empathy for the life of a family which includes a child with autism.”
Sandra L. Harris, PhD, executive director, Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Rutgers University, and coauthor of Siblings of Children with Autism: A Guide for Families

“A marvelous, harrowing, life-affirming book. In looking to forge a meaningful relationship with her severely autistic sister, Eileen Garvin finds a simpler way of being in, and extending, every moment. Isn’t that what we’re all after? I loved this book. And boy, can she write!”
Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life: A Memoir

Product Description

Eileen Garvin's older sister, Margaret, was diagnosed with severe autism at age three. Growing up alongside Margaret wasn't easy: Eileen often found herself in situations that were simultaneously awkward, hilarious, and heartbreaking. For example, losing a blue plastic hairbrush could leave Margaret inconsolable for hours, and a quiet Sunday Mass might provoke an outburst of laughter, swearing, or dancing.

How to Be a Sister begins when Eileen, after several years in New Mexico, has just moved back to the Pacific Northwest, where she grew up. Being 1,600 miles away had allowed Eileen to avoid the question that has dogged her since birth: What is she going to do about Margaret? Now, Eileen must grapple with this question once again as she tentatively tries to reconnect with Margaret. How can she have a relationship with someone who can’t drive, send email, or telephone? What role will Eileen play in Margaret’s life as their parents age, and after they die? Will she remain in Margaret's life, or walk away?

A deeply felt, impeccably written memoir, How to Be a Sister will speak to siblings, parents, friends, and teachers of people with autism—and to anyone who sometimes struggles to connect with someone difficult or different.

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 538 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Publisher: The Experiment (April 1 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JTHBY2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #926,904 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9a198504) out of 5 stars 33 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a3e6f0c) out of 5 stars A solid addition to any memoir collection focused on autism May 9 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Paperback
Autism does more than affect the individual. It affects a family. "How to Be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism" is the reflections of one girl growing up with a sister with severe autism. She shares her stories and what Margaret, her sister, has taught her over the years through her disorder. Poignant, thoughtful, and sure to give many family members of autistic children something to relate to, "How to Be a Sister" is a solid addition to any memoir collection focused on autism.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a241c6c) out of 5 stars From Another Chick Who Has a Sister With Severe Autism Sept. 21 2012
By sweetshadow11 - Published on
Format: Paperback
Reading through other reviews about this book, I was faced with frustration. "Uncomfortable"? "Bitter"? Until you've grown up with a sister who has autism, your judgements on how Eileen felt about her experience aren't relevant. I've had a multitude of similar experiences to Eileen's, and sometimes it's easy as the sibling to feel like nobody else has gone through what you're going through. This story, for me, was purely cathartic; if you have no experience as a sibling of someone with autism, sure, this will be a challenging read. This isn't a feel-good story about only the cute, funny parts of growing up around autism, but rather an honest description of the nitty-gritty... the good, AND the bad, all of which were important in her relationship with her sister. Don't expect this story to be light and cheerful, because having a sibling with autism is ROUGH. I have never felt more connected to someone else's story before.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a11d06c) out of 5 stars An amazing work! Feb. 4 2011
By Sally Jackson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book. Like other readers, I could not put it down. Eileen's description of events makes you feel like you are in the room witnessing it all. I think back to the hairbrush story where you get the sense of shock as Eileen realizes how her childhood is very different than other girls her age because Eileen has become the self-appointed caretaker of her older autistic sister. My friend has an autistic son. For the first time, this book gave me a glimpse into what it is like inside her home. I had no idea. I passed it onto my friend the day after I finished it.
I was so moved by this book. I was laughing out loud as well as had moments of tears streaming down my face. I have huge admiration for this author and can't wait to read her future books. I can only hope that she is sitting back at a keyboard working on her next book. Bravo!
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a2854ec) out of 5 stars A Well Written, But Uncomfortable Read Oct. 8 2011
By G.D. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eileen Garvin's account of her childhood and current relationship with her sister is unique, and her personal writing style gives a great glimpse at what having a sibling with severe autism can be like. Unfortunately, her past history tells such a sad and self-deprecating tale that it undermined any desire to continue reading. I dare say that if I did not have to read this book for class, I would never have finished it.

For the majority of the book, the author is a victim of abuse at the hands of her sister's outbursts and inability to cope with the rest of the world. She struggles, in vain, to understand Margret's actions and attempts to form some connection with Margret, thinking that if maybe she can communicate with her on a deep, emotional level, that perhaps the past thirty years of torment and suffering will have been worth it.

It's hard for me to view this as anything but an abusive relationship, and I'm sure I will be chastised by others for thinking this way. Margret does not do these things to spite others; it is her way of coping. That does not make it any less painful to read though because her actions still cause very real consequences that alienate and humiliate the rest of the family. Eileen cannot accept that things will never change and her years of hope and failed attempts come across as pathetic and desperate.

If you are looking for a book that shows, in very painful detail, the interactions and adaptations of a family with a severely autistic child, then this book will be extremely insightful. This is not a book to read in leisure or for pleasure.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9a1b43a8) out of 5 stars Eileen and Margaret Forever Jan. 30 2011
By Kendall - Published on
Format: Paperback
Enter the world of the Garvin family of Spokane, Washington and lose yourself in the family dramas, the summers at "the lake," Sunday Masses and
countless other Garvin family routines with Margaret, Eileen's autistic sister at the center. Eileen Garvin lets the reader know in some small way
what it means to be inside the mind of an autistic person, and her lifelong attempts to understand and sometimes change her sister are heartbreaking, funny, misguided....her own kind of 'spinning" and perseveration, two behaviors that are often linked to autism.

As a musician, I could relate only too well to Margaret's extreme sensitivity to out of tune singing. How often have I wanted, like Margaret, to put my fingers in my ears and scream loudly when confronted with off pitch singing or playing.

Eileen Garvin reads this memoire Monday through Thursdays on Spokane Public Radio station KPBX (91.1) at 6:30 though I think the book is almost over. Check out the podcast of it because her reading of it makes the material that much more engaging and immediate.