Monday, May 19, 2014

BULLY FOR YOU BOOK NOOK: CLEFT HEART BY KARL SCHONBORN

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today I have a very special BOOK NOOK presentation for you––a book to read in tandem with our BULLY FOR YOU series. It's Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal by Karl Schonborn. Perhaps you noticed that Karl weighed in on some of your comments last week with the first BULLY FOR YOU post.

I hope you'll get to know Karl. This is what he looks like:



And here's his book:


You can order Cleft Heart at  http://goo.gl/MQfZ4C or http://goo.gl/ZY84Sb.

Karl told me: I wrote Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal mostly to show kids with facial differences that they can rise above, that normal is a state of mind, that you’re only as “normal” as you feel. And, too, I wrote it because I found out no cleft had ever written about the cleft palate experience before. Zounds! Can you imagine?

Yes, Karl Schonborn was born in 1943 with a cleft lip and palate, "meaning an unjoined lip and gum, and a hole in the roof of his mouth". But this memoir offers far more than the story of a boy with a facial deformity. 

It has a universality in that we all need to connect––to communicate––with other people. Whether we have complications because of a speech impediment or shyness or acne, each of us is alone, reaching out for the interconnectedness of human kind, or "oneness", as our friend Dee Ready at coming home to myself calls it.

Schonborn writes plaintively of an early inability to connect:

But nothing compared to the pain in my heart. It reminded me of my first public humiliation years ago when my mom inadvertently left me with a group of strangers for a minute. Judgmental eyes and headshakes shamed me after I made a simple statement in front of the group. Wanting to redeem myself at once, I screwed up my face and courage and concentrated on enunciating during a second attempt.

As the words started in my throat, I contracted my lips, tensed my cheeks, and gritted my teeth to make the words more intelligible. But to no avail. By the time the words emerged, they still sounded nasal and whiny as if coming from an underwater source. Upon hearing my second try, the people staring at me needed no further proof, given my scarred, asymmetrical face. A couple called me names I didn't understand. Most turned their backs and left. I stared at the ground until Mom reclaimed me. I felt awful until I told Mom. We both cried then.

Schonborn wasn't completely alone because he had such a strong relationship with his mother, who championed his causes and made sure he received the medical treatment and speech therapy he needed. As his voice and face became more "normal", the still young boy embarked on a friendliness campaign to extend his connection to the world. And all the while, he stood up to bullies who taunted and mistreated him.

Schonborn also travels Forrest Gumpishly, though with a much higher IQ, through the history of the United States during the '40s, '50s, and '60s. He takes part in the beginnings of Silicon Valley, learns about non-violence from Joan Baez and her cohorts, and encounters future Secretary of State John Kerry during their college days. Cleft Heart includes a captivating endorsement by Kerry. Schonborn travels much of the world as a young man, on the literal and figurative road to maturity–a maturity he needs desperately when he faces a major loss.

Schonborn writes in the voice of a person with a great deal of perception, yet he maintains a sense of humor throughout much of the book. Cleft Heart: Chasing Normal earns The Janie Junebug Highest Seal of Approval.

I had the pleasure of working as one of the editors on this book. After it was published, I intended to scan it before writing my review, and instead ended up reading the entire book again because I felt so caught up in it.


Here's the trailer for Cleft Heart:





And now I wish you happy reading.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Two notes: First, I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. Second, we'll have the first of our BULLY FOR YOU guest posts one week from today. Rachel from When A Lion Sleeps, Let It Sleep, will share her firsthand knowledge of being bullied. 

27 comments:

  1. This sounds like a great read!!!

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  2. This is a great story, Janie, and your introduction of it in this post sets the stage for your important bullying series. I agree that normal is a state of mind and you are only as normal as you feel. People with handicaps and deformities who experience ridicule and rejection from a stranger need to interpret that external stimulus as the other person's problem, not their own. Karl learned to work through and rise above his challenges. His life is filled with accomplished and he is an inspiration to others hiding in the shadows enduring similar hardships.

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  3. What an important book. So glad he's tackling the subject. What is "normal" anyway? It's what we've defined...

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    1. I'm not normal. I think everyone who knows me would agree on that. But you're right, "normal" is what the majority thinks it is, just as "beauty" is agreed upon by modeling agencies and photographers.

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  4. I read this book after winning it in your contest, and it was hard to put down. Our godson was born with a serious cleft, and countless surgeries later, he is still dealing with the physical effects of it. I heartily recommend this book!

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    1. I'm so glad the book helped you, Shelly.

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  5. This sounds like a fascinating and worthwhile book. I had speech issues growing up so I can relate.

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    1. My speech issue is not shutting up.

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    2. Awww, that's not a speech disorder. You were just born with exceptional orofacial muscle tone. Don't let anyone diagnose you otherwise, esp that Dr.Freud fellow with his oral, anal personality categories.

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    3. Anyone who could come up with penis envy is not to be believed.

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    4. Yes, many of his speculations and a lot of his over generalizations from his small sample (bored, wealthy Victorian housewives) missed the mark. He was right about "Love your work, and work at love."

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  6. Such an important issue. My ex-husband's nephew had a cleft palate.. He had several surgeries, so it was improved but still slightly noticeable. I think the Twilight Zone episode "The Eye of the Beholder" says it best. Normal is what we've decided is normal.

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    1. You're absolutely right, Stephanie, and I'm so glad you've joined our blog party.

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    2. Is that the one where everyone has a pig-like faces with odd ears, and they shame an unseen woman into undergoing plastic surgery? Just before she goes under the knife, she turns to the camera for the first time. . . and she's --Gasp!--a beautiful woman by our society's standards.

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    3. I was wondering the same thing, but I don't remember everything that happens in the episode. I do remember that the beautiful young woman was played by Donna Dixon, who went on to play Ellie Mae Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.

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  7. I have adult ADD today. I will be back later to read again, JJ.

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  8. I learned a lot about cleft lip and palate from Cleft Heart. There's a section where he's young when he wants to fight the bullies but he can't because his cleft may have given him a heart condition. I thought it was interesting how this forced him to find a non-violent way to deal with the bullies, which led to his later joining the non-violence movement and becoming a violence specialist.

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    1. Absolutely right. Thanks for pointing that out. I want to make so many points about this book and can't do it without writing a book-length blog post.

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  9. He sounds very admirable. What is wrong with people who bully others with a disability or condition? It really irritates me to no end.

    I liked the trailer.

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    1. Maybe Karl will share his thoughts on why people with disabilities are bullied, but I imagine it has to do with them being vulnerable and different. Nobody is supposed to be different. We're all supposed to be cut out with the same cookie cutter.

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    2. Yeah, I'd guess it has to do with DNA as well as poor socialization (teaching kids that people/things outside the norm are scary, even evil). Saw a movie short ystrdy against harvesting shark fins for soup. It said that we need sharks 'cuz they rid the ocean of weak fish, thereby making the ocean healthier. Unlike sharks, umans can and do transcend their DNA.

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  10. Your follower count reminds me of that show Room 222.

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  11. I remember that show. It was good. At that time, it was still unusual for black people to have important recurring roles in TV shows.

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