A heartbreaking memoir of growing up with an exceptional sibling in the 1950s , 60’s and 70s – a time when institutionalization was the norm and there was no support for or knowledge about the disabilities that Mikey lived with.
Thanks to Book Sparks and She Writes Press for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own.
A riveting memoir about growing up as a typical sibling in a family of four, Mikey & Me is Teresa Sullivan’s tribute to her beloved older sister Mikey, who was blind and developmentally disabled.
When Mikey is young, the Sullivans are a closely-knit unit, devoted to caring for her. But as Mikey grows older, and increasingly violent, it becomes impossible to keep her at home. At twelve, institutionalization is the only option. Without the shared purpose of caring for Mikey, the family begins to unravel. Seeking comfort and connection, Teresa navigates the border between the mainstream and the 1960s and 70s countercultures. Still, the Sullivans are united by their love and concern for Mikey, visiting often and sometimes bringing her home. Sometimes sweet and touching interludes, these visits also reveal evidence of the abuse that Mikey experiences.
Writing with clarity, eloquence, and poignancy, Sullivan shines a light on the complicated issues involved in caring for a special needs child. Even young siblings must become honorary adults and caregivers, grappling with the same conflicting emotions their parents experience.
As she interweaves her exceptional sister’s journey with her own, Sullivan affirms the grace and brutality of Mikey’s life, and its indelible effect on her family.
Teresa Sullivan has shared an incredibly moving and personal story with the world, and it is a story that both enlightens and shocks. Her accounts of Mikey’s challenges and the treatment her and her family were given by the medical community are simply heartbreaking, but also imperative for today’s parents, teachers and medical professionals to witness as the mysteries of autism are being unlocked. We need to know how far we have come in this journey to maintain hope, but we also need to know that the challenges are still there.
As a former special education teacher, and current school librarian, I have seen over and over again the agonies faced by parents and siblings of children with exceptional needs – especially when there are violent tendencies. Sullivan provides a great service with this book by letting families know that they are not alone in their journey, and also provides a list of resources at the end of the book for families.
I highly recommend this book for fans of memoir and anyone involved in the care of our more vulnerable citizens, including the elderly. This story will stay with me for a very long time.