RSD in Me! by Barby Ingle

cover_design.frontRSD in Me! by Barby Ingle is a guide to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and other chronic pain conditions. It is full of information and advice for patients with RSD and their caregivers—doctors, therapists, families, and friends. The author shares her personal experiences with RSD after a car accident in 2002. It affected all aspects of her life—from daily routines to her career to her marriage. She includes definitions, causes, and tips from a personal perspective.

The cover is simple, mirroring the format of the book itself. It’s just text on a background, leading the reader to focus on the content. The content itself is fairly straightforward. Ingle breaks down the complex medical disease into categories. She seems to write from her heart—including personal bits throughout. At the end of each chapter is a “recap” section that lists all the important bits. The format makes it easy to gleam pieces of information out of this dense work. RSD is not a straightforward disease because it can literally be caused by anything and have symptoms ranging from pain to depression.

Writing about a medical condition is not easy, especially when the author adds personal experiences. The reader should applaud Ingle’s emotional strength in sharing such a private journey with the world in order to help others suffering the same. That being said, it can sometimes be difficult to understand what Ingle is trying to explain. This could be due to the complexity of RSD itself, the vagueness of the medical terms, or the writing style. Readers dealing with RSD will appreciate their feeling being validated, and doctors may gain a deeper understanding of their patients, but someone who has not experienced RSD may walk away from this book more confused than when they started.

Ingle achieves her goal—to get knowledge of RSD out there, to show support for her fellow suffers, and to reach out to the medical community. RSD in Me! reads more like a textbook than a memoir. The general population of readers may have gotten more out of this work if it had included more personal experiences and if the medical side had been illustrated with examples.

High School Dropout to Harvard by John Rodrigues

Book Cover (2)High School Dropout to Harvard is a memoir by John Rodrigues that reads like a fiction novel. He tells of creating giant ice sculptures that win international competitions, traveling aboard a cruise liner to numerous exotic locations, and getting into Harvard—all after dropping out of high school and fighting with dyslexia.

John shares the trials and tribulations of his life while living with a learning disability. As a child, he disappointed his parents and fellow students with his clumsiness and general comprehension issues.  Instead of thinking in words and reading letters, he realizes early on that he thinks in pictures and that life is a giant puzzle. Over the course of his lifetime, he learns to harness this unusual ability to think in abstracts to achieve greatness and be unique. Although he drops out of high school and almost everyone thinks he’s never amount to amount to anything, he eventually—through much perseverance and hard work—ends up matriculating at Harvard University.

It is John’s unbelievable tale that draws the reader in, but it is the realization that every word is true that creates a lasting impression. John’s battle with his own brain—and his conquering/compromising with it—can be applied to every person’s life. He figured out a challenging aspect of himself, learned to work around that aspect/use it to his advantage, and accomplished more than he ever thought possible. This book is a must-read and an inspiration to people with disabilities and “normal” people alike!