Related to: 'Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Hodder & Stoughton

Thinking in Numbers

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

This is the book that Daniel Tammet, bestselling author and mathematical savant, was born to write. In Tammet's world, numbers are beautiful and mathematics illuminates our lives and minds. Using anecdotes and everyday examples, Tammet allows us to share his unique insights and delight in the way numbers, fractions and equations underpin all our lives.Inspired by the complexity of snowflakes, Anne Boleyn's sixth finger or his mother's unpredictable behaviour, Tammet explores questions such as why time seems to speed up as we age, whether there is such a thing as an average person and how we can make sense of those we love.Thinking in Numbers will change the way you think about maths and fire your imagination to see the world with fresh eyes.

Hodder & Stoughton

Embracing the Wide Sky

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

Daniel's internationally bestselling memoir of living with Asperger's Syndrome and Savant Syndrome, Born on a Blue Day established him as one of the most original talents in contemporary non-fiction.Now, in his new book, Embracing the Wide Sky, he combines meticulous scientific research with detailed descriptions of how his mind works to demonstrate the immense potential within us all. He explains how our natural intuitions can help us to learn a foreign language, why his memories are like symphonies, and what numbers and giraffes have in common. We also discover why there is more to intelligence than IQ, how our brains turn light to sight, and why too much information can make you stupid.He illustrates his arguments with examples as diverse as the private languages of twins, the compositions of poets with autism, and the breakthroughs, and breakdowns, of some of history's greatest minds.Embracing the Wide Sky is a unique and brilliantly imaginative portrait of how we think, learn, remember and create, brimming with personal insights and anecdotes, and explanations of the most up-to-date, mind-bending discoveries from fields ranging from neuroscience to psychology and linguistics.This is a profound and provocative book that will transform our understanding and respect for every kind of mind.

Hodder Paperbacks

Born On a Blue Day

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

'I was born on 31 January 1979 - a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday, becasue the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number nine or the sound of loud voices arguing.'Like the character Hoffman portrayed, he can perform extraordinary maths in his head, sees numbers as shapes, colours, textures and motions, and can learn to speak a language fluently from scratch in three days. He also has a compulsive need for order and routine. He eats exactly 45 grams of porridge for breakfast and cannot leave the house without counting the number of items of clothing he's wearing. If he gets stressed or unhappy he closes his eyes and counts.But in some ways Daniel is not all like the Rain Man. He is virtually unique amongst people who have severe autisitic disorders in being capable of living a fully-functioning, independent life. It is this incredible self-awareness and ability to communicate what it feels like to live in a totally extraordinary way that makes BORN ON A BLUE DAY so powerful.

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster and naturalist whose television career is now in its seventh decade. After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge and a brief stint in publishing, he joined the BBC. Since the launch of his famous Zoo Quest series in 1954 he has surveyed almost every aspect of life on earth and brought it to the viewing public. His latest programme, Planet Earth II, was the most-watched nature documentary of all time.

Dr Mike Shooter

Dr Mike Shooter CBE is a former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and was the first child psychiatrist to hold that post. He is now an honorary fellow of six Royal Colleges and has spoken from public and professional platforms, written and advised governments in many parts of the world. An ex-journalist, Mike is a passionate believer in the power of stories and the need to share them - those of his patients and his own. He still lives in the Welsh Valleys, amidst a large family, many animals, and the community with whom he worked for more than 40 years.

Ellie Kemper

Comedian and actress Ellie Kemper plays the title character in Tina Fey's massively successful Netflix sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Her first major role on TV was as Erin Hannon in the US version of The Office. Kemper also played supporting roles in Bridesmaids (2011) and 21 Jump Street (2012), among other films.In 2013, NBC commissioned Tina Fey and 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock to write a show for Kemper, resulting in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which was sold to Netflix. The first season gained a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 95% and received widespread acclaim, with TV Guide naming the show the 'best new comedy of 2015'. The show has earned Kemper nominations for an Emmy in both 2016 and 2017 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Eva Schloss

Eva is in her mid-eighties and lives with her husband Zvi in North London. After the war she became a professional photographer (using the Leica camera Otto Frank had given her) and later opened an antiques shop in Edgware, which she ran for decades. She co-founded The Anne Frank Trust to perpetuate Anne and her step-father Otto's legacy. She was awarded an MBE in this year's New Years Honours for her work in schools, educating children on the perils of intolerance.Karen Bartlett is a writer and journalist based in London. She has written for The Sunday Times, The Times, The Guardian and WIRED from Africa, India and the U.S, and has presented and produced for BBC radio. She was the youngest Director of democratic reform and human rights campaign group Charter88, and began her career in the UK and South Africa.

Fern Riddell

Dr Fern Riddell is a historian specialising in sex, suffrage and culture in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She appears regularly on TV and radio, and writes for the Guardian, Huffington Post, Telegraph and Times Higher Education among others, and is a columnist for BBC History Magazine.

Graham Norton

Graham Norton is one of the UK's best loved broadcasters. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2, and writes a column for the Telegraph. He is the winner of eight BAFTA awards. Born in Dublin and raised in West Cork, Norton now lives in London. His debut novel Holding was a commercial and critical success, winning Norton the Irish Independent Popular Fiction award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards in 2016.

Henry Blofeld

Henry began writing about cricket, for The Times, in May 1962 and in 1972 he started his long career as a commentator with the BBC's Test Match Special. During his career he has written for numerous papers and broadcast for both radio and television for many networks around the world especially in Australia and New Zealand. Between 1991 and 1993 he joined Sky Television before returning to Test Match Special after the death of Brian Johnston early in 1994. Since 2002 Henry Blofeld has performed in his humorous one-man show in theatres all round the country, and later he teamed up with his former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, for more than 250 two-man shows. His current two-man show team-mate is former England off spinner, Graeme Swann.

James Bowen

James Bowen is the author of the bestselling A STREET CAT NAMED BOB and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BOB. He found Bob the cat in 2007 and the pair have been inseparable ever since. They both live in north London.

Juno Dawson

JUNO DAWSON is the multi-award-winning author of dark teen thrillers. Her first non-fiction book, BEING A BOY, tackled puberty, sex and relationships in a frank and funny fashion, and a follow-up for young LGBT people, THIS BOOK IS GAY, came out in 2014. Juno is a regular contributor to Attitude Magazine, GT and the Guardian and has contributed to news items concerning sexuality, identity, literature and education on BBC Woman's Hour, Front Row, This Morning and Newsnight. She writes full time and lives in Brighton.

Katja Pantzar

Helsinki-based writer, editor and broadcast journalist Katja Pantzar was born in Finland and raised and educated in Canada. A freelance member of the Finnish public broadcasting company Yle's news team, Pantzar is a regular contributor to Blue Wings, the inflight magazine of Finnair, and Helsinki correspondent for Monocle 24. She is the author of three guides to Helsinki: The Hip Guide to Helsinki, Helsinki by Light and 100 Things to Do in Helsinki. Finding Sisu is the first book Pantzar has written that will be published outside of Finland.

Lesley-Ann Jones

Lesley-Ann Jones is a journalist, newspaper columnist and broadcaster. The author of eight published books, she has enjoyed more than twenty-five years in music and the media. She lives in South-East London with her young children, the eldest having grown up and gone into the music business.

Levison Wood

Levison Wood is an award-winning author, explorer and photographer who specialises in documenting people and cultures in remote regions and post-conflict zones. His work has taken him around the world leading expeditions on five continents and he is an elected fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club.Levison's second book, Walking the Himalayas, was voted Adventure Travel Book of the Year at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards and his other books, Walking the Nile and Walking the Americas, were both Sunday Times bestsellers. He has presented several critically acclaimed documentaries including From Russia to Iran: Crossing the Wild Frontier where he re-traced part of his Silk Road adventures in a four-part series for Channel 4.

Martino Sclavi

At the age of 10, Martino Sclavi and his family moved from Rome to New York. Knowing little English, he spent his time in school learning to sew and type, skills that have now become essential. After studying political science, he moved to Berlin and played bass for a Krautrock band while at the Humboldt and Freie Universität. He completed his MA at Cambridge University, then moved to London where he mixed drinks in a bar in Brixton. After work, with his 35mm camera on his shoulder, he would wander the streets and tell the stories of his neighbourhood. Sclavi became a producer for a variety of documentaries and films. He has previously written articles and screenplays, but The Finch in My Brain is the first project he has typed into his computer without being able to read it back. Martino lives in London and Italy where he invents bedtime stories to carry his young son to his dreams.

Matt Whyman

Matt Whyman has written novels and non-fiction for children and young adults, including the critically acclaimed Boy Kills Man. He also writes regularly for Bliss and Marie Claire magazine. Matt is married with four children and lives in West Sussex, England.

Michael Caine

Sir Michael Caine CBE has been Oscar-nominated six times, winning his first Academy Award for the 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters and his second in 1999 for The Cider House Rules. He has starred in over one hundred films, becoming well-known for several critically acclaimed performances including his first major film role in Zulu in 1964, followed by films including The Ipcress Files, Get Carter, Alfie, The Italian Job, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Educating Rita, and more recently The Dark Knight, Is Anybody There? and Harry Brown. He was appointed a CBE in 1992 and knighted in 2000 in recognition of his contribution to cinema. Married for more than 30 years, with two daughters and three grandchildren, he and his wife Shakira divide their time between England and the United States.

Michael Parkinson

Born in Yorkshire, Michael Parkinson left school at sixteen with the ambition to play cricket for Yorkshire and England and to write about cricket for the Manchester Guardian. Although, he didn't manage to fulfil the first half of his ambition, he has since become one of the most successful journalists of his generation. He wrote a sports column for The Sunday Times for fifteen years and has also written for the Telegraph. He is also a legendary TV and radio presenter - his long-running chat show Parkinson was hugely popular for many years.

Molly Corbally

Molly Corbally served as a nurse in World War II, and on returning to England became one of the first District Health Visitors in the newly-formed NHS. She worked in the rural Midlands between 1940s-70s. She died in 2012, but her self-published book was rediscovered in 2016 and republished here.