Guest post by Shanda Manion, Founder and Executive Director of The Scholar Maker and Pathways to Medicine
“The world does not fit into the categorical boxes any more than we do. The beauty of it is in seeing the connections, the patterns, the spiraling circularity. Is this not the same with human beings?”–Ross Cooper, “Dysobedience”
How did Jules Verne manage to portray the surreal and avant-garde world of science fiction in Journey to the Center of the Earth? What was that special spark that made Lewis Carroll’s epic fantasy Alice in Wonderland bound across the page, daring the reader to follow? Everything is Spherical: An Anthology of Dyslexic Writers holds the answer to these questions and many more.
This unique collection of prose and poetry invites the reader to carve their own path from the very first page, to explore its contents as one would approach any adventure—with complete abandon: “Read it in your own way. Maybe under a tree, on a train, in a forest… Read it and daydream if you want, but whatever you do, do not be inhibited by convention.”
What makes this book compelling is not only that it is written by dyslexic writers, but also that it is created for dyslexic readers or really anyone who seeks to understand the magic of the dyslexic mind. Its short stories, poems, and personal reflections beautifully echo the singular, powerful voice that is gifted to many writers with dyslexia and which serve as a constant reminder that the trials of dyslexia do not occur in a void. Each work functions alternately as a comforting hand to hold and a reassuring pat on the back to learners with dyslexia, educating them about their unique capacity as human beings and challenging them to harness the power of their innovative minds. Reading that, for example, one’s own consciousness is unrivaled in its ability to simultaneously be an “Einstein of everyday phenomena and experience” and “a think-feeling mind in which the senses are all melted together… so that to hear is to see, is to feel, is to taste and therefore to know,” a reader with dyslexia would be hard-pressed not to feel a twinge of curiosity about exploring the gifts that have been bestowed upon them.
One of the great strengths of this book is that it has picked poems and stories that are inspiring as often as they are heart-breaking, sometimes simultaneously so. In many of the works, the challenges of living and learning with dyslexia are laid bare. In “Webs,” Sarah Fearn uses an apt metaphor to describe her struggles in elementary school, “It felt like all the other kids had started higher up the mountain and had been given crampons. I just had my hands and feet”. Ironically, the poignant anecdotes of failure and frustration only serve to make the authors’ success sweeter and their joy more memorable. In the same breath, Sarah Fearn describes how she fought for her English degree and, more importantly, her sense of self-worth, “It hurt like hell sometimes, but I remembered how it felt to be in the dark place, and I held on. I kept climbing”.
If there ever was a doubt about the astute and fertile minds of writers with dyslexia it is well and truly put to bed by the anthology’s poetry selections. The inherent freedom of the poetic form allows these writers to let loose their imagination and write grippingly about the quotidian and the extraordinary. The ambivalent heat of young love in the poems “A Brief Phase of Hedonism” by Abs Watson and “Just Sadly There” by Fernando A. Flores rises from the page, putting the reader skin-to-skin with the emotion of the moment. Among all the poetry that appears in the anthology, “Manifesto” by Kristen McHenry will hit home. Speaking to anyone who has fought bravely to make their way in the world, McHenry writes, “We will not ourselves go bald and rigid as the trees. We will not be frozen out. We will explode against the deadened backdrop of these times, marching through the gray wind bearing our floppy luminous gems. We will be fearless.” Everything is Spherical: An Anthology of Dyslexic Writers is a book made to inspire.
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