6. Karen

KarenI’m not sure how old I was when I read Karen by (her mother) Marie Killiea, but I think I was in my teens. I don’t know how I learned about the book, but I suspect it was either from my mother or from my English teacher.

Karen was a book about a young girl with Cerebral Palsy.  Before I read this book I had no idea what Cerebral Palsy was nor had I ever encountered anyone with it — or if I had, would not have known it was Cerebral Palsy.

When I think about this book, I see myself in the home of the Killieas. I think the book was written a way that the reader found herself there, right with the family, observing what went on daily.

One of the most memorable parts of the book was when someone, perhaps Karen’s mom, wanted to paint Karen’s nails red. Karen said no because she knew that if her nails were painted red that the people who talked to her would be drawn to her nails, and she didn’t need people looking at her hands.

What I took away from the book, was probably more important than any scenes I may recall. I learned that to have Cerebral Palsy didn’t mean that the person with it was less smart than anyone else.

Now that I think about it, I might have known one person with Cerebral Palsy. The daughter of a relative of a friend of my mom had it and was even featured in the National Enquirer in a story about how she could suddenly communicate when she was provided a “Talking Board”. However I may have met her after reading Karen.

Karen might have been one reason I went into Special Education. In the end I didn’t work with kids with Cerebral Palsy, but have met a number of people who were born with it, one of whom was a vice president of Wells Fargo but now owns his own company. and another is his wife, an author. A third is Jesse, who, I’m positive, is destined for wonderful things.

I think Karen was another one of those turning-point books. You were one way one day. Then you read the book. After reading the book you were forever changed.

According to Wikipedia, Karen works not far from where my daughter is going to school, but values her privacy and doesn’t grant interviews. I would not want to interview her, just have a cup of coffee with her someday.

April 21, 2010. Tags: , . 1974, life-changing, non-fiction.

One Comment

  1. Bridgett replied:

    That was a lovely book. There was a part two, if I remember correctly, which dealt with an annulment her sister (?) was trying to get in order to get married to a lovely man the family loved? I don’t remember the details well. I just remember being shocked that faith and organized religion adherence would be more important than being in love with someone (doesn’t she break up with ihm for a while because of it?). That’s what I came away with. That, and the scene when Karen decides a wheelchair isn’t such a bad way to go sometimes–after years and years of leg braces and crutches. That choosing stuck in my mind a long time. The idea that even if you can do something, sometimes it’s a better choice to take it easy on yourself and those around you.

    I read it in 5th grade and immediately the sequel (unless all that happens in the first book and I’m muddled in my thinking). And then I read “Twink” by John Neufeld. And then I was done with cerebral palsy for a while.

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