Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery

By Adams, PhD Rachel | Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery


Adams, PhD Rachel, Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin


Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery By Rachel Adams, PhD (2013). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 272 pages

Raising Henry is a memoir of Rachel Adams's journey as a mother raising a child with Down syndrome while navigating a complex medical system. Adams describes her life as a tenured professor at Columbia University prior to this experience as both systematic and predictable. But everything changed with the birth of her second child, Henry. In this book, Adams records the first 3 years of Henry's life, as well as her reflections about becoming the mother of a child with special needs. Raising Henry is an examination of social prejudice, genetics, prenatal testing, medical training, and inclusive education. As a successful academic, Adams effectively combines material from her research with her personal experiences.

The author describes the early-intervention therapists who came to her home within weeks of Henry's birth. They attended to his muscle tone, socialization skills, cognition, play, and, eventually, literacy. Adams writes,

When we started early intervention, I discovered that my city is home to an army of therapists, almost all of them women, who spend their days traveling from home to home, lugging backpacks full of paperwork and equipment to treat their clients. For years I must have passed them on the sidewalk and shared seats with them on the bus, but Henry made them visible to me. (p. 86)

Adams credits the intervention therapists for recognizing Henry's achievements. This wonderful group of people gave the author immense hope for Henry's future.

The author recalls her memories of countless visits to a geneticist who seemed to schedule appointments with Henry so the residents could observe a child with Down syndrome. After yet another visit, she writes,

I perched on my seat, silent and incredulous. It was 2009. We were sitting in the office of a respected hospital in New York City, but this felt too much like a freak show, with Henry and me as the main attractions, (p. 113)

As both a scholar and the parent of a child with Down syndrome, Adams writes about the balance between working to make the world more tolerant of people with physical and intellectual disabilities and the temptation of utilizing medical cures. She goes on to discuss the innovations that may improve cognition and stave off early dementia and the ethics of plastic surgery to alter the facial characteristics of Down syndrome.

Adams also describes the frustrations that she experienced as the sole manager of Henry's support network. She candidly describes the following realization:

On paper, we got Henry everything he needs. But now I have to set it up. I have to find the therapists. I have to make the schedule. I have to figure out how to get him there and back. Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed, (p. 222)

Raising Henry is a beautifully written book, revealing both a mother's heart and an educator's mind. This is a must read for an eclectic group of readers that would include parents, teachers, therapists, and medical professionals. Readers will be inspired by the author's determination, promise, joy, and hope that flow through each page of this work.

In addition, Adams is the author of Continental Divides: Remapping the Cultures of North America (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2001). She is co-editor, with David Savran, of The Masculinity Studies Reader (Blackwell Press, 2001) and, with Sarah Casteel, of a special issue of Comparative American Literature on "Canada and the Americas."

Adams is editor ofa critical edition of Kate Chopin's The Awakening (Fine Publications, 2002). Her articles have appeared in seveialjournals, including American Literary History, Yale Journal of Criticism, and Twentieth-Century Literature. Adams's writing also includes articles for The New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Times of London. …

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