OAARSN Book Review

A healing family: a candid account of life with a handicapped son, by Kenzaburo Oe (1996).

Review by Linda Foster in AAIWW 1 Summer 1998

Nobel prize-winning author, Kenzaburo Oe, has written a memoir about life with his severely autistic son. Hikari was born with a growth on his brain that apparently made him look as if he had two heads. Though this was operated on and Hikari had excellent medical care, he still had constant seizures and poor vision. His rages required constant attention, patience and reassurance.

As a child, Hikari never cried and never seemed to dream, and words seemed ineffectual for him. Only as he grew older did it become apparent that he could express himself through music. Music was an interest that he had since he was very young, and as a toddler he had listened intently to the songs of birds. Encouraged by his parents, Hikari composes music that according to his father expresses "a core of sorrow" and a "wailing soul." The father continues, "In the very act of expressing himself, there is a healing power, a healing to mend the heart...and this is the miracle of art."

This book describes how a family endured great hardships over which they had no control, and got on with their lives. Not only does it tell about Hikari's musical creativity, the book is illustrated by his mother, and the writing itself is a testimonial art form to the life of the handicapped.