Autism in Children's Literature
Averett graduate student, Samanath Quinn developed the children's literature recommendations below in an autism studies course taught by Dr. Pamela Riedel. Ms. Quinn is pursuing a Masters of Education with certification in Autism Studies. We are grateful to her for enhancing Blount Library collections for children and teachers!
Review of Emma Donoghue's Room: a Novel
By Linda Lemery, Circulation Manager, Blount Library
Donoghue, Emma. Room: A Novel. 2010. 321 pages. NY: Little, Brown and Company.
New and Notable Collection: PR 6054 .O547 R66.
We as a society have a responsibility to read about the acts of human monsters in part so that we can attempt to protect ourselves and others from their malevolence. That’s the reason it’s important to read the book Room, and why I had to find a way to write about it.
I ran across Room in browsing the New and Notable offerings in Blount Library here at Averett University. Room is the story of a 19-year-old female college student who is abducted and kept prisoner by a much older man. Old Nick has planned the abduction well: He’s built a 12-foot by 12-foot garden shed in his backyard. He’s soundproofed the shed, insulated it, put a layer of chain-link fence between the external and internal walls, floor, and roof to make it escape-proof, and has designed it as a habitat made for one. Room has running water, heating and cooling, plumbing, a refrigerator, a bath, a lamp, a reinforced skylight, and an impregnable door that’s locked by an electronic key code. The garden shed faces a 15-foot high privacy hedge. By design, the door is out of the backyard line-of-sight.
The girl is forced to live in this cage. Old Nick visits her at night. She gradually learns how well he’s planned for her, except for the stillbirth, and later, except for the birth of her healthy son. The novel spans some seven years. Adding to the sense of growing horror the reader feels throughout: The book is written in the first-person voice of 5-year-old Jack, the son whose survival Ma intentionally buys from Old Nick through her continuing docile compliance.
To Jack, Room is his world, the only one he’s ever known. Jack refers to the items in Room without articles: He’s never seen more than one of any of them (“Lamp,” “Door,” “Rug”) because he’s never been outside of Room. Ma does a great job raising him under these alien conditions. She trains him about cleanliness, physical education, literacy, mathematics, art, spirituality, and more. Ma dedicates herself to Jack’s survival, and when he turns five, she begins to reveal through stories that she doesn’t live in Room by choice. Through Jack’s narration, the reader realizes what Ma has come to understand: That Room is becoming too small for them both to be safe much longer, and that with taking an action that cannot be taken back, there is immense risk and certain aftermath.
I have a horror of reading about mistreatment of children, so this novel was profoundly disturbing for me. Not only is Ma little more than a child herself when she is kidnapped, but the book is written from the viewpoint -- and in the matter-of-fact, accepting voice--of a charming, innocent, articulate, intelligent, precocious child, whose only crimes are that he was ever born, and that he is growing older in an increasingly impossible situation. For Jack, for Ma, and for the reader, the clock is very clearly ticking.
Author Donoghue thought through the plot, the scene, the construction of both habitat and book, and the characterization in chillingly realistic and believable detail. The writing is masterful: clear, seamless, and age-appropriate. I have not read Donoghue’s nine other books, so I cannot give readers a comparison between these works.
I may eventually read some of the other books, but not until I’ve finished thinking about Room. That may take a long time, the same long time it takes, and possibly more, to cleanse oneself of the feeling of filth that comes with reading even tangentially about a twisted soul like Old Nick.
Those who read Room will remember it for a long time to come.
Lost in the metadata? Consult the Library User Guide. It's a road map, a tutorial, a quick reference for discovery, access, evaluation and attribution.
Yancey Smith, Averett College Class of 1971
Bicycle Riders. 2010. Oil on canvas.
18.5" x 22.5"
Averett University Archives
Reproduced with permission of the artist
Share Your Thoughts at a Coffee Talk
Coffee Talks are brief presentations on academic resources and topics of interest to the Averett community, followed by questions and discussion. Averett students, faculty, staff and friends are welcome to attend ... and to propose and present new topics!
Join us for learning, dialog and refreshments on the 2nd floor of Blount Library, weekly, generally at 3 P.M. Days and times vary. See specific times and topics at: http://discover.averett.edu/coffeetalk.
As suggested by the Library Committee, this guide has new forms for students, faculty and staff to ask questions and recommend improvements in collections and services. Please provide your valid Averett email address for a direct response. Librarians will post answers of general interest on a bulletin board in Blount Library, and at http://discover.averett.edu/learn.
Ask a Reference Question
"Fair Use" in Higher Education
Humanities Liaison and Access Services Librarian, Jim Verdini, M.A., M.L.S., has completed a certificate program at the University of Maryland, University College on "Fair Use" in U.S. Copyright Law. His draft copyright policy was approved by the Averett's Academic Policies Council and senior administration in January 2013 . You can find the official policy here, and at http://discover.averett.edu/learn. Congratulations and thanks to Jim!