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University of Iowa News Release


June 1, 2007

Grinnell Faculty Member Savarese Reads From New Memoir June 12

Grinnell College faculty member Ralph James Savarese will read from his new memoir, "Reasonable People," in a free event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, in the Prairie Lights book store at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen live via the University of Iowa Writing University Website:

The free event will be recorded for broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, originating on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910. Hour-long "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by Julie Englander, air at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on AM 910 WSUI in Iowa City, AM 640 WOI in Ames and AM 1010 KRNI in Cedar Falls. A program is also broadcast at 5 p.m. Sundays on 91.7 FM KSUI in Iowa City.

"Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption: On the Meaning of Family and the Politics of Neurological Difference" is his account of his family's adoption of an abused, autistic child that his wife, an autism-care professional, encountered in her work.

Donna Chavez wrote for Booklist, "By his own admission, Grinnell professor Savarese never wanted to have children, which makes his memoir of his and wife Emily's autistic adopted son, DJ, all the more poetic a demonstration of achieving much more than one thinks one can. This applies as much to DJ, whom Emily met while she was assistant director of a center for autism and related disabilities, as it does to the Savareses.

"At two and one-half, DJ couldn't talk, he perseverated (repeated actions), and was generally unresponsive. Worse, he had been neglected, abused and abandoned when his birth parents and several foster parents wrote him off as too much to handle.

"Armed with clear principles on how children with autism ought to be cared for, Emily and Ralph started to work with DJ, eventually adopting him. Their road together continues to be rough, but today the preteen boy attends mainstream classes and, as the final, in-his-own-words chapter confirms, possesses marvelous perceptive and communicative skills. Savarese's careful melding of memoir and passionate advocacy for the disabled informs and inspires."

Morton Ann Gernsbacher, president of the Association of Psychological Science, called "Reasonable People" an "articulate and passionate" book that "challenges all of us to embrace diversity, to triumph over adversity . . . to become a reasonable society."

A poet, essayist, translator and scholar, Savarese teaches American literature and creative writing at Grinnell.

The Writing University Web site provides a handy portal to the UI writing programs, including the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the International Writing Program, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, the Translation Workshop, the UI Press and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. The site also centralizes writing news, lists upcoming events and provides access to a wealth of writing materials -- texts, journals, lists of Iowa-connected writers and publications, historic videos and archived audio. Visitors to the site have the option of subscribing to an RSS feed.

For additional information about the reading call Prairie Lights, 319-337-2681. For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,