I have not even finished the book, but am deeply engrossed in it and simply had to post something. The description of autism-like behavior in a dog is one of the best descriptions I have ever read of the challenges and rewards of raising a child with autism. The unexpected behavior, the longing to understand and find a way in, the immense rewards when you do. I can't wait to read more, and will continue my review when I do. Thank you, Aaron Wright, for writing this book.
UPDATE AFTER COMPLETION
This book has been calling to me so loudly that I had to play hooky for the afternoon and finish it. It is a heartbreaking and infuriating, yet poignant and uplifting, tale that reads like the worst dystopian saga of a bureaucracy denying the reality and rights of special needs children. And yet it is entirely believable. Mr. Wright's literary skills are remarkable and Annie and Arthur are ordinary people turned into heroes, Davids fighting Goliaths. The story will leave you wondering how Magdalena achieves safety, comfort and happiness in school, but that is not the purpose of this book. It is not a How-To Manual of advocating for special needs children, but rather an authentic distress signal and call for action. Every special education teacher, therapist, lawyer, and especially administrator should be assigned this book before they are allowed to attend an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting. It's about the children.
This book was extremely revealing and informative. The story is relatable to anyone who has, works with, or knows children that see the world in a different way. What made this story extra special for me were the parallels between the child and the family dog, the beautiful descriptions of the surroundings, and the story was a page turner. I finished the book feeling energized to advocate for my own children as well as part of a larger, often unseen, community.
Even though I don't have a child with autism, I was riveted by this book.
The Russell's journey navigating the massive power trip and lack of accountability of their Davis, California school system is unimaginable. That a parent(s) can be so easily gaslit by an institution when standing up for their child's needs is not only illegal, but immoral and unforgivable. And yet the Russells weren't the first ones this happened to and I doubt the last. Based on what we are seeing in the United States as I write this (as black lives continue to be marginalized and violated without any accountability), I suppose none of what the Russells experienced should really be a surprise. And yet, it is.
The writing is superb - I felt like I was walking hand in hand with the narrator all the way through the book. Journeys of transformation are my favorite to read, and despite not knowing much more about Special Education when I started than what an IEP is, I didn't feel disadvantaged. The academic and sensory descriptions were just right for the newbie.
I hope and pray that this book gets into the hands of people who can affect change on the power over, privilege and ignorance of those who are callously and horrifically damaging the lives of special needs children and their families. Not only is this a specific story related to autism and special education, it is also a story of a parent's love for their children, of perseverance and endurance. I feel changed and saddened, but also inspired and grateful for what I learned from their story
Like any good book, I loved it in unexpected ways
In reading this beautifully written book, I honestly found myself nodding at parts, chuckling at parts, reading sections aloud to my husband, and silently wiping tears from my eyes so I could still see and keep reading. This book will be very eye opening for those who don’t understand the fight us special needs families are up against with school districts. I hope that this will start bigger conversations, and move those who have the power to make changes. Our children are deserving of the same education that every child deserves, and it shouldn’t have to be such a fight! The flow of this book draws you in immediately- Aaron has an intriguing way with his words that make it hard to put the book down. The pain and frustration that is described in the book is able to be felt by the reader - his words are heartfelt and at times simply raw and honest emotions.
I have read reviews on this book and books like this. Typically, the reviews are from those walking this path. Fighting this fight. Forced on this journey. And they applaud the value that it has brought them as a parent of a child going through this. As someone who has not had to walk this path or fight this fight - I want to tell ALL parents how important it is that we ALL understand this battle. That we speak up, reach out, join in - where and when we can to give voice and more importantly love + support to our friends in the trenches.
Very few times in our lifetime does something touch us so profoundly that we feel the need to sing its praises from the rooftops. Often, these praises go ignored. I’m going to tell you why my praises today should not be ignored. In the course of a few hours, I laughed, cried, yelled, wanted to throw something, wanted to slap someone, and threw up my hands in frustration, all the while mesmerized by a beautifully written and heart felt story. It reads like fiction, but sadly it is not. And it’s a story that has the potential to impact every parent, every grandparent, every teacher, every school board member and administrator, and every child with autism.
Lori Lane Fox, @GoodlyWitch
This book gets 5+ stars from me for the original way this novel was told. It gets 5 stars for humor in times of sadness and anger when the story called for extreme emotion. It gets all the stars for speaking out on a subject that most hide. Looking for a powerful and inspiring read? I highly suggest you pick this book up. Aaron Wright did us all a huge favor when he wrote this one.
Debbie D., @bookswritingandmore
Sometimes we read a book at just the right time and it is surprisingly therapeutic.
Brilliantly interweaving metaphor and intelligent humor, Wright transports the reader into a devastatingly difficult situation where concerned parents must work with the worst parts of educational district bureaucracy. I felt like this could have been partly my story – the scenes of school meetings were particularly vivid and etched in a reality I have experienced. Wright’s memoir is a page-turner that I highly recommend.
Jennie Kaufman Singer
Being a central valley native, I felt nostalgic reading descriptions of the natural surroundings of the area where I grew up. The author's incorporation of the family dog (Daisy) into the story is truly touching and magical. It added another dimension that I could really relate to
One cannot read it without recognizing the importance of honoring what parents know about their children or the need to change the systems that put up so many barriers to supporting children with special needs.
Barbara Shreve, educator
The love Arthur has for his family is evident in every page. What is also evident is the acceptance and respect he feels for all of his family but especially his daughter and his dog who both have autism. At times, he pauses in the story of Magda to appreciate Daisy. It feels like he is pausing to take a deep breath, to remind himself of what he is fighting for and to show us what he sees with his heart when he looks at Daisy and Magda. I can't really imagine how hard this family fought for their child, but I got a glimpse and I am humbled
Corinne L. Macrae
This story is so amazing I can’t believe I’m not hearing more hype about it. Extremely well written and the plot is incredibly inspiring and educational. A must read for everyone. It’s a nonfiction memoir but reads like fiction- was enjoyable to read
This book caught my interest from chapter one and didn’t let up. It was an intensely emotional read, it’s rare to find a book that makes you feel so deeply you carry those feelings with you for hours if not days after you put the book down. I can’t recommend this book enough.
A must read for all educators, anyone living with a disabled child, animal lovers, someone looking for that rare book you stay up all night reading.
I loved the style this book was written in. It read like a story and I think added to this book. All educators, especially those who work with special needs children should read this book. ALL Administrators should be REQUIRED to read this book, all school board members should be REQUIRED to read this book. Do you see where I am going with this?? In this country there is NO EXCUSE for parents and kids to be treated as Magda and her family were.
Kim Fox @foxandbooks
Although I’m an avid reader, I haven’t felt called to read anything outside of personal development or business in a couple years. Thirteen Doors changed that. It captured me from the first page and brought up every emotion. The urgent message, the depth of the writing and the author’s ability to guide the reader to perspective share is what made this book a powerful standout.
I thought this story would be a family taking on a system and winning. LOL - welcome to real life. Yet I wasn’t left feeling gutted or angry, I was left feeling completely in love with this family, thinking about how true and often we find that the systems built to help are just a maze of redirections to do anything but help
Jordan Garafola @readwithwine
Thirteen Doors is beautifully written. It is witty, clever, and wonderfully descriptive. The author’s use of metaphors is absolutely brilliant. I was immersed into this story from the very beginning and even upon finishing it has stuck with me. I learned a lot reading this book. It sparked many conversations with my family about how people who completely lack compassion and empathy, choose jobs that primarily deal with the public
I believe this amazingly truthful memoir deserves all the praise in the world. I do not think my words will do this book enough justice. Just trust me when I say you NEED to read this book. Teachers, parents, educators, and administrators read this book! If you or anyone you know is connected to autism in any way, this book will give you hope and fulfillment of understanding. If you or anyone you know is not connected to autism then this book is a must read. It provides an exclusive insight into what the autistic world is really like for those living in it.
This book reminds you that you aren’t the only one.
This isn't my normal read, so it was that much more enjoyable.
There are few books that I feel that every parent should read and this book is definitely one of them. This book broke my heart in some parts and made me smile in others.
Jackie Alvarado, @allthingsbooks_sf
You cannot help but get emotionally involved in this story
It’s a heavy story, but it’s an important one. As a speech therapist that works with students with autism, it was interesting to get a parent’s perspective to see what life has been like for so many families struggling to get the services their children NEED. The story of the relationship with the dog Daisy and the family dynamics throughout the book were absolutely beautiful. One quote that really stuck out to me: “I feel like we can’t celebrate any of her successes because they will be used against her, or against us.” Ugh it gave me allll the feels!
This was a book I couldn't put down - but not just for the injustice, but the touching insights into this family and how they coped with such an uphill battle. This is so much more than an account of a child who has autism. It is a beautiful story of a family - and some of the most touching scenes were about the family dog. Aaron has done an excellent job of capturing their experience, and artfully conveying it in this book.
This book is beautifully written and incredibly heartbreaking. This family’s experience is sadly shared by many others in the special education community. Because of the bravery and tenacity of this author and his family, we are finally shedding some light on this topic that has been so full of shadows.
It is time that these situations are exposed to a wider audience.
The book at its core is asking us why aren't we doing better for our most vulnerable students. This isn't just a book for special needs families, it's a story of family, love, despair, hope, ethics, and let's not forget...dog lovers.
It was so well written and easy to read that it felt like stepping into their lives.
Veronica Quintanilla, @booksandcoffeepleasemx
His descriptive writing captivates and his account of the Russells’ experience gets to you so emotionally.
Perspective is everything. I love this story. It is heartbreaking reading the struggle on the other side.
Thirteen Doors should be mandatory reading for every school board member, school administrator, and teacher. It’s a book that will help parents of children with disabilities know they are not alone.