Children's Books About Mental Retardation
While visiting the Sacramento Capitol building last month, I walked down the basement steps and found the bookstore where, prominetly displayed in the entrance, lies the book, "What's Wrong With Timmy?" by Maria Shriver. Visit http:/www.timmyisretarded.ytmnd.com
"What's wrong with that?" One might ask. On first glance at the cover of the book, a cute, retarded boy with glasses holding a basketball sits with a smile while Maria Shriver enjoys a bipartisan moment of fame as her allegedly, formerly, groping other half, Arnold, throws his weight around upstairs, choking down a few cigars as he takes credit for a "landmark environmental breakthrough" this week for not vetoing the democrat sponsored AB 32 greenhouse gasses bill. But what does this have to do with Timmy, you ask?
Maria Shriver is an expert story teller who knows volumes about mental retardation (given her aunt Rosemary was retarded). The book includes multiple religious references throughout the story, which actually, when you read it, are simply not quite age appropriate for little kids who just want to have a straight answer as to why Timmy is a little different-- is beside the point. By all means, I admire Ms. Shriver's attempt to raise awareness about retardation (my uncle was retarded) through writing a book about it, presumably to raise sensitivity, acceptance, and compassion (not self-promotion). All good intentions aside, the author's high-handed, verbose story telling about the subject of mental retardation instead risks alienating her readers (young and old) with an uptight, imperious and condescending tone that screams "HEY PLEBES, BUY THIS BOOK!" and "KIDS YOU BETTER LISTEN TO ME AND DO AS I SAY!"
The California State Capitol bookstore had the book featured front and center with stacks all around the store - a curious place for such non-state historical content.
Could what's wrong with the author be an inability to write a book that does not reek of hubris, smugness, and the transparent knowledge that the governor's wife can write about any topic that she knows a little something about and have it shoved in the faces of unsuspecting crowds that visit the State Capitol every day who deserve the promise of the "American Way" -- whatever that means, these days? Isn't the American Way supposed to mean jobs, health care and some kind of non neo-feudal civil society that values its middle class? You know, the kind of society that elitists don't typically care about as long as they've got theirs? Would these two personify the new "third way" party that would like to see a moat in front of every driveway?