Searching for Normal is a book about following in the great tradition of creative nonfiction. Detailing her personal experience from the onset of a rare and painful illness at the age of three, Alison Neuman recounts her personal journey coming to terms with an ever-shifting conception of ‘normality’. The disease having shaped her life in ways most could never imagine, a carefree childhood quickly morphed into a blur of ongoing hospitalizations, increasingly reduced mobility, and overwhelming fatigue and pain.
But amidst her constant battles with her health, Alison emerged as a champion. Searching for Normal will leave readers awed by Alison’s perseverance and strength of character. Her story serves as a pertinent reminder that ‘normal’, is in the eye of the beholder.
Grade: A (5 stars)
I don’t often read memoirs.. it’s just not really that I don’t like them, i’m just usually caught up in other books. But this year, I’m making more time for non-fiction in my life, both serious and humorous, and this lovely, touching piece of creative non fiction fit right in. It’s a story of really understanding what normal is while you are struggling with a disease that keeps taking your “normal” and throwing it out the window. The author is inspiring. I enjoyed how the book was structured, chronologically, and it didn’t get too overwhelming, with event after event. She’s got a nice, flowing, quality to her writing, which allowed me to enjoy the memoir without feeling like I had to keep up with each date hitting me in the face. Her struggles are something you don’t really think about if you are a healthy american, you don’t realize the toil a chronic illness takes on the person, their life, and their family. The stories about school and people telling her that she wouldn’t succeed hurt. We live in a world where we believe everyone is equal, but you can clearly see here people who weren’t willing to take the time to look past the illness at a very smart, talented individual. I enjoyed this book, I cheered for her and her successes and I think this book will open a lot of eyes that previously didn’t notice or understand this kind of journey. I’m completely glad I read it, and will suggest it to others.
*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Meet the author:
Alison Neuman lives in Alberta, Canada, where she works as a freelance writer. Nearing the end of her studies at Grant MacEwan College, she was inspired to complete the first draft of Ice Rose: A Young Adult Spy Novel. The YA novel integrates her love for gadgetry with the broad imaginative license afforded by the secret agent genre, and features a female protagonist in a wheelchair. It was published in 2010 by Fireside Publications.
Alison’s work has appeared in MacEwan Today, Westword, and the Edmonton Journal as well as on three tracks of the CD release, Outside The Window, and as a credit on the script for Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s screenplay adaptation of Whale Song. She was also an “Edmonton Stories’ top-ten finalist, a winner in the “Expressions of Hunger” in the Emotional Poetry Category (2009), and a nominee for the Northlands Award for Emerging Artist (2012), Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award, and Avenue’s “Top 40 Under 40.”
Alison was also honoured in 2011 for her human rights work in advocating for the rights of the disabled. One of her greatest achievements is an integrative camp she started for children from all walks of life—both with and without disabilities. Camp Mission Access uses a secret agent theme and activities as children of all abilities complete mission activities. Since 2010, she has been a member of iDANCE Edmonton, performing regularly. A musical version of Searching for Normal, will debut at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival in August 2013.
Alison is currently working towards her Master of Arts at Athabasca University and, when time permits, completing her next YA novel.