I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust: A Memoir of Autism and Hope, by Valerie Gilpeer and Emily Grodin
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Featured on The Thread: Mother-daughter memoir of autism exemplifies the power of language
“I have been buried under years of dust and now I have so much to say.”
These were the first words twenty-five-year-old Emily Grodin ever wrote. Born with nonverbal autism, Emily’s only means of communicating for a quarter of a century had been only one-word responses or physical gestures.
That Emily was intelligent had never been in question—from an early age she’d shown clear signs that she understood what was going on though she could not express herself. Her parents, Valerie and Tom, sought every therapy possible in the hope that Emily would one day be able to reveal herself. When this miraculous breakthrough occurred, Emily was finally able to give insight into the life, frustrations, and joys of a person with autism. She could tell her parents what her younger years had been like and reveal all the emotions and intelligence residing within her; she became their guide into the autistic experience.
Told by Valerie, with insights and stories and poetry from Emily, I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust highlights key moments of Emily’s childhood that led to her communication awakening—and how her ability rapidly accelerated after she wrote that first sentence. As Valerie tells her family’s story, she shares the knowledge she’s gained from working as a legal advocate for families affected by autism and other neurological disorders.
A story of unconditional love, faith in the face of difficulty, and the grace of perseverance and acceptance, I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust is an evocative and affecting mother-daughter memoir of learning to see each other for who they are.