In 1991, Mark Osteen, Ph.D., professor of English at Loyola University Maryland, and his wife, Leslie, struggled to understand why their son, Cameron, was so different from other kids. At age one, Cam had little interest in toys and was surprisingly fixated on books. He didn’t make baby sounds; he ignored other children. As he grew older, he failed to grasp language, remaining unresponsive even when his parents called his name. They soon began to grasp that their son might be developmentally delayed, and at age 3, he was diagnosed with autism.
“When Leslie first raised the possibility, I dismissed it,” said Osteen. “Autism was so rare, I thought. We’d be more likely to be struck by lightning.”
Osteen’s new memoir, One of Us: A Family’s Life with Autism, chronicles the experience of raising Cam, whose autism causes him aggression, insomnia, compulsions, and physical sickness. In the years since Cam’s initial diagnosis, autism has received extensive coverage in the news media, and it has become a popular subject for film, television, and literature, but the disorder is frequently portrayed and perceived as a set of eccentricities that can be corrected with proper treatment. In reality, autism permanently wrecks many children’s chances for typical lives. Plenty of recent bestsellers have described the hardships of autism, but those memoirs usually focus on the recovery of people who overcome some or all of the challenges of the disorder. And while that plot is uplifting, it’s rare in real life, as few autistic children fully recover. The territory of severe autism—of the child who is debilitated by the condition, who will never be cured—has been largely neglected. One of Us tells that story.
In his deeply personal narrative, Osteen, who joined Loyola in 1988 and whose courses span American and British fiction and poetry, literature and film, and the literature of jazz, recounts the struggles he and his wife endured in diagnosing, treating, and understanding Cam’s disability. The book explores the life of a child who exists in his own world, and describes the immense hardships faced by those who love and care for him. One of Us is not a book about a child who overcomes autism. Instead, it's the story of a different but equally rare sort of victory—the triumph of love over tremendous adversity.
An excerpt from the book recently received the Dr. O. Marvin Lewis Award for the best essay published in Weber: The Contemporary West. The book has also been featured in Examiner.com and on Baltimore’s WYPR Radio.
One of Us is available from online booksellers, the University of Missouri Press's website here and via http://www.oneofusbook.com.
For more information or questions regarding this story, contact Media Relations Manager Nick Alexopulos at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-617-5025.