Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rosemary,The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

It took me a couple of days, and a few post rewrites to finally figure out what was giving me pause about this book.

It's actually not about Rosemary.

Oh sure, her name and picture is on the title, and she is mentioned throughout the book, and there are events and memories that involve her, but it's never about her. 

It's impeccably researched, but the problem is that there isn't much about Rosemary's internal thoughts and experiences. Of course there isn't, because she undergoes a lobotomy in her early 20s and spends the next decades of her life hidden away. As well, before that, Joe and Rose do everything in their power to cover up Rosemary's shortcomings, and keep her letters under lock and key.

So instead, Larson uses Rosemary to promote her viewpoints. Instead of the book being about Rosemary (seriously, couldn't you have made up something in a fictionalized account?), it's about how The Kennedy's real triumph is through the passing of various state and federal disability legislation that promoted and protected disability rights.

If you are an able-bodied person that doesn't encounter those with disabilities in their daily life, this may be an eye opening book for you. However, I am very familiar with the disability narrative, because not only do I have a masters in special education, I am also a part of the tribe. (Though John Nagle and I declared a sub-tribe for just us two).

John Nagle and I clearly do have matching overalls. But Larson didn't tell me anything knew, and she went over at length to which I practiced my eye rolling skills.

Finally, the tone of the book was just... condescending? I write that with a question mark because I can't really put a finger on it. One moment she's lauding Rose for caring for Rosemary, the next minute she's chastising the Kennedys for believing in eugenics, and finally, she's showing the readers the horrors of institutions! It felt like she was all over the place, trying to put a place for each letter she read as well as put in her own thoughts and feelings.

Overall, this book blew. I'm sure there are better books out there and ones that treat Rosemary as a person instead of a mantel that the Kennedys had to carry.

No comments:

Post a Comment