Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Double Take

My friend Deanne is an avid reader. She recently read Double Take: A Memoir about a young man with no legs, and I asked her to write a post about the book. Here is what she had to say, along with a video clip promoting the book:

Double Take: A Memoir is an autobiography by 23-year-old Kevin Connolly. Unique to the memoir is the fact that Kevin, a native of Montana, was born with no legs. Fortunate for him, his parents followed their doctors’ advice to “treat him like a normal guy and he’ll have a normal life.”

To his parents “normal” meant just that -- letting him go to the local school and driving him thousands of miles to compete in skiing events on a wannabe snowboard. Finding a wheelchair too limiting, Kevin adapted a longboard as his means of transportation and managed to tour New Zealand and Europe in this way.

In Double Take he describes a defining moment of his life: when he made he decision to photograph the people he saw as he was out on his longboard. Tired of having to deal with the inquisitive or pitiful looks of those passing him, he made the choice to reverse the feelings this personally evoked by turning the table and taking pictures of his onlookers. These pictures, which are on the inside covers of the book, capture the looks he had to repeatedly deal with in people’s “double take” of him. “Each photo was a miniature catharsis,” he writes. “There was something empowering about taking those photos; realizing that I created such a universal effect on people. The feeling of power stemmed from the feeling that I could go almost anywhere in the world, and while people’s reactions may be unpleasant, they would always be predictable. Until now. being stared at had been a frustrating -- but unpreventable -- burden that I had to bear with a grin. Finally, I was able to find my own use for that stare, and it felt good.” Later in the book Connolly insightfully shares his maturing beyond this need.

Why a skateboard as his preferred mode of transportation? “That skateboard served as a representation for who I was and where I had come from: a world based on adaptation and practicality over aesthetics. It was a world I clung to, and without it, I wouldn’t have managed to do so many of the things that seemed odd or even impossible to an outsider.”

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