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Reading I’m Special and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves by Ryan O’Connell stirred mixed emotions. Amazon categorizes the read under “humor.” The book description in-part reads “This hilarious part-memoir, part-manifesto reveals what sets apart the latest generation of young people coming of age in an all-wired, overeducated, and underemployed world.”
Admittedly, I failed to look at said information before buying. Rather I purchased I’m Special after reading an NBC News article, “OutFront: Ryan O’Connell is Proudly Out of the ‘Disabled Closet.’” Once finished with the piece my arrow hovered in hesitation over Amazon’s “Buy now with 1-click” button.
“Would I enjoy I’m Special?” I pondered. On one end I relate to trying to hide a disability. Yet I wondered if O’Connell’s lacking political correctness (PC) might sour the read for me. Today’s post obviously indicates I chose to find out.
Reflecting back, those pre-purchase sentiments seem fitting. They essentially foreshadowed the aforementioned mixed emotions I felt reading I’m Special. Almost immediately I encountered the exact language I prefer not seeing. In his “Preface” O’Connell discusses how he treated life as a “grand experiment.” Still surprise set in when everything went wrong for him. Reasoning why the obvious came surprisingly, he quipped:
“Well, that’s probably because, on top of being a typical young psycho, I’m retarded. No, really. I am. I was born with mild cerebral palsy (or, as I like to call it, cerebral lolzy), which means I walk with a limp and have little sprinklings of brain damage. So I’m not only special in the delicate snowflake kind of way, I’m also ‘riding the short bus’ special!”
While I failed to laugh at the above, I kept reading. Eventually I came across jokes that left me laughing. For example in Chapter 6 “Being Gay is Gay” O’Connell remarks about his teenage years “That’s the thing that’s always baffled me about being young. Your life is so boring and yet you never run out of things to talk about.”
Ironically I quote from a chapter with a non-PC title. Depending on your sensitivity the absent political correctness may ruin the read for you. Perchance you can tolerate the language you should discover ways to relate to O’Connell.
As I previously mentioned, I overlooked I’m Special’s book description and genre classification. Instead a NBC News article led me to the read. Starting I’m Special I expected a cerebral palsy memoir. Further I read I began thinking “This reads more like a millennial memoir.”
Sure, numerous cerebral palsy themes present themselves. In Chapter 1 “Growing Up Gimp” O’Connell tells stories about people mistaking him for a drunk. Come Chapter 3 “The Devil Wears Urban Outfitters” O’Connell mentions opening mail, an apparent mundane task. Not with cerebral palsy! I am all too familiar with the ripped envelopes and at times equally ripped contents.
Really though, the millennial and cerebral palsy subjects only represents two layers within a multi-layered memoir. I’m Special also examines pressures and concerns O’Connell felt as a homosexual. Additionally he opens up about drug addiction. Plus the read provides insights into an accident victim’s experiences.
During his sophomore year in college a car accident disabled O’Connell more. Specifically, the accident resulted in him receiving a compartment syndrome diagnosis. Subsequently O’Connell knows life both as someone born with a disability and someone who acquired a disability. So he possesses a unique perspective on the hypothetical “Is it better to be born with a disability or become disabled?”
Altogether O’Connell intertwines these various layers to teach a valuable lesson about self-love. The lesson helps to identify an important truth about differences. Ultimately the book’s moral makes O’Connell’s questionable language and humor tolerable.
I’m Special Final Verdict:
I’m Special and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves by Ryan O’Connell provokes mixed emotions. The book contains a message beneficial to the cerebral palsy community. Although to obtain the message, you must tolerate less than PC comments and humor. Therefore the most sensitive individuals will want to skip the read. However, others should consider I’m Special worth a read. Click below to order off Amazon.