Jean has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, but she's always believed she's just the same as everyone else. She goes to normal school and has normal friends She's never really known another disabled person before she arrives at Camp Courage. But there Jean meets Sara, who welcomes her to "Crip Camp" and nicknames her Spazzo. Sara has radical theories about how people fit into society. She's full of rage and revolution against pitying insults and the lack of respect for people with disabilities. As Jean joins a community unlike any she has ever imagined, she comes to question her old beliefs and look at the world in a new light. The camp session is only ten days long, but that may be all it takes to change a life forever.
Harriet McBryde Johnson isn't sure, but she thinks one of her earliest memories was learning that she will die. The message came from a maudlin TV commercial for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that featured a boy who looked a lot like her. Then as now, Johnson tended to draw her own conclusions. In secret, she carried the knowledge of her mortality with her and tried to sort out what it meant. By the time she realized she wasn't literally a dying child, she was living a grown-up life characterized by intense engagement with people, politics, work, struggle, and community, and also by a deep appreciation for the ephemeral beauty of life. Due to a congenital neuromuscular disease, Johnson has never been able to walk, dress, or bathe without assistance. With help, however, she lives life on her own terms, from the streets of Havana, where she covers an international disability rights conference, to the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, to an auditorium in Princeton, where she defends the value of lives like hers against philosopher Peter Singer. Her idea of fun leads her (as a law student) to take on the Secret Service during a presidential visit, as well as to undertake a last-minute campaign for local political office and to set the world endurance record for telethon protesting. And she may be the thinnest of all the thin women who have been photographed for the cover of The New York Times Magazine. Too Late to Die Young opens with a lyrical mediation on death and ends with a tough sermon on pleasure. In between, we get the tales Johnson most enjoys telling from her own life. This is not a book "about disability" but it will surprise anyone who has ever imagined that life with a severe disability is inherently worse than another kind of life. As disarmingly bold, funny, and unsentimental as Johnson herself, Too Late to Die Young marks the arrival of an unforgettable American voice.
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