Title: Laughing at My Nightmare
Author: Shane Burcaw
Genre: YA Memoir
Number of Pages: 256
Another entertaining and insightful memoir about Shane Burcaw’s life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA,) a severe and life-threatening disease. In this book, he touches on a number of topics, including family, dating, sexuality, his fears of helplessness and constant awareness of his own mortality. But the overall takeaway isn’t sad. Burcaw enjoys his life even though it’s more difficult than other peoples’ in a lot of ways. He uses humor as a coping mechanism and has a strong support system of friends and family.
This is an easy read and can be enjoyed by teenagers and adults, though some of the content makes it questionable for middle graders. It’s a compelling portrait of what life with a disability can be like. I actually read Burcaw’s second book (Strangers Assume My Girlfriend is My Nurse) before this one, which threw things a little bit out of whack. I did have problems with some parts of this book because it was a bit more mean-spirited than his other memoir. I feel like maybe the author matured a little bit between writing the two books.
I understand why someone like him (with a normal mind and a handicapped body) being placed on a short bus with SEVERELY developmentally disabled people could be frustrating and even traumatic but his attitude towards mentally disabled kids was very mocking and derogatory. I totally get the psychology behind it and even relate to it to some extent (I am a person who has mental health problems and is on the spectrum and people have told me I seem ‘slow,’ and I resented being sent to a school with primarily disabled students as a teen.) Maybe it was because I understood it that I found it troubling.
Anyway. I didn’t like this book quite as much as the other one, but I would still recommend both to readers who are interested in different kinds of people’s experiences. It has the same combination of humor and self-deprecation of Strangers Assume My Girlfriend is My Nurse and even though I read both of them this year, I would recommend people consider reading them back-to-back for the most cohesive experience possible.