Hazard: A Sister's Flight from Family and a Broken Boy

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9781510715318: Hazard: A Sister's Flight from Family and a Broken Boy

Hazard is a poignant, unflinching memoir of the emotional intricacies of growing up with a severely disabled sibling. Margaret Combs shows how her Southern Baptist family coped with lived reality of autism in an era of ignorance and shame, the 1950s through the 1970s, and shares her own tragedy and anguish of being torn between helping her brother and yearning for her own life. Like many siblings of disabled children, young Margaret drives herself to excel in order to make up for her family’s sorrow and ultimately flees her family for what she hopes is a normal” life.

Hazard is also a story of indelible bonds between siblings: the one between Combs and her sister, and the deep and rueful one she has with her disabled brother; how he and she were buddies; and how fervently she wanted to make him whole. Initially fueled by a wish that her brother had never been born, the author eventually arrives in a deeper place of gratitude for this same brother, whom she loves and who loves her in return.

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About the Author:

Margaret Combs is an award-winning journalist who began her writing life as a National Public Radio reporter and education correspondent for the Boston Globe. She is a recipient of both the Associated Press Award for Arts Reporting and the United Press International Award for Best Documentary. Excerpts from her book have appeared in literary magazines, including the North American Review (NAR) and Lost Magazine. She was a finalist for the NAR’s 2015 TORCH Memorial Prize. She lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Review:

A sister struggles with her brother's autism while growing up and seeking personal fulfillment. Award-winning journalist Combs details her tomboyish childhood in the late 1950s,first in Kansas,when her brother was born, and then in Denver, when things began to shift and sour. The author was 5, her brother just an infant, when their mother began fretting over the way Roddy "rocked in his crib, banging his head against the bars, not seeming to mind the pain, not crying as she hurried to him" A misdiagnosis of cerebral palsy was corrected to Asperger's years later. Meanwhile, Combs witnesses the discord of her parents' relationship after a rushed move to Hazard, Kentucky. As she grew up, her sheer exasperation at her brother's quizzical behavior quickly turned to fierce protectiveness when the schoolyard bullies tormented him. Eventually, the author's vibrant life began buckling beneath the weight of Roddy's rages and the family's growing impatience with an impairment they could not fully understand, manage, or treat at the time. "My brother's response to any request was like a tangled almanac," she writes, "a set of warnings that might or might not advance to a full-blown tornado." All of this took a toll on Combs who realized she had spent a good portion of her youth sheltering her brother yet not fully cultivating her own dreams and desires since she "always tried to be the son that Roddy couldn't be." Through the years, the author would "escape the undertow of my brother's tantrums" to pursue collegiate gymnastics and, later, marriage and children. Once reunited a decade later, the intricate, complex familial bond with Roddy showed signs of deterioration but remained unbroken, despite distance and maturity. Though swift-moving, the narrative is richly textured, layered with colorfully outlined imagery and descriptive prose, perfectly suiting this bittersweet chronicle of love, pain, and fierce devotion. A touching, highly poignant portrait of how family dynamics can survive despite disability and seemingly insurmountable challenges, - Kirkus Reviews

"In this achingly honest, courageous memoir, Margaret Combs will breakyour heart and then mend it again as she unfolds her story of growing up with an autistic brother. There are some harsh realities here, but like Mary Karr in The Liars' Club and Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle, Combs infuses hope and humor into even the most harrowing scenes. I couldn't put it down. --Holly Robinson, author of Beach Plum Island, Folly Cove, and The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter: A Memoir

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Book Description Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Hazard is a poignant, unflinching memoir of the emotional intricacies of growing up with a severely disabled sibling. Margaret Combs shows how her Southern Baptist family coped with lived reality of autism in an era of ignorance and shame, the 1950s through the 1970s, and shares her own tragedy and anguish of being torn between helping her brother and yearning for her own life. Like many siblings of disabled children, young Margaret drives herself to excel in order to make up for her family’s sorrow and ultimately flees her family for what she hopes is a ?normal" life.Hazard is also a story of indelible bonds between siblings: the one between Combs and her sister, and the deep and rueful one she has with her disabled brother; how he and she were buddies; and how fervently she wanted to make him whole. Initially fueled by a wish that her brother had never been born, the author eventually arrives in a deeper place of gratitude for this same brother, whom she loves and who loves her in return. Bookseller Inventory # 5647064

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