Have you ever read a book that made you feel immense joy, pain, confusion, and anger all at once? Have you ever read something that made you want to act and help out the characters within the novel? Joy, pain, confusion, and anger. These are four of the most overwhelming senses that you can feel, and one book made me feel them all.
I grew up in a great family; I honestly mean that. I have 3 siblings (seen above) and 2 parents that I know love me very much. I also grew up in a home that believed in compassion and love for everyone around us. My mother was (and is still) a Special Education teacher at my high school, and my younger brother has Down syndrome and needs extra help in various areas of life. My siblings and I were raised to treat those around us with respect and love, despite what they look like or the way that they speak or act. This novel spoke to my heart for these reasons. What would it feel like to grow up without this knowledge that I was loved? What would it feel like to grow up in an environment where I wasn’t wanted and was constantly reminded of that fact by my family and the people around me? This week, I read the book Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. It covered multiple hard topics that included the treatment of “Speddies,” or students in Special Education classes, as well as rape and how our culture perceives it.
“Some call me names.
Granny call me Retard.
Quincy call me White Trash sometimes and Fool most of the time.
Most kids call me Speddie. That’s short for Special Education.
I can’t write or read. A little bit, but not good enough to matter.”
In this book, we follow the lives of Biddy and Quincy, two young women with special needs who have recently graduated from high school. The story bounces between both of the girls’ point of view. Biddy is a sweet-natured girl who loves everyone around her despite her past with a family that is broken. Quincy is her tough, headstrong roommate that is upset with the fact that they were paired together. They embark upon the world together, being placed in an apartment as roommates that are there to help an elderly woman named Elizabeth. As they move out into the world, readers are allowed to follow their individual stories and see the girls transition to their new roles. They grow together and encounter multiple circumstances that two women shouldn’t have to encounter. As Biddy relives her painful past and tries to move forward, Quincy faces an obstacle that no one should have to go through alone. As the unlikely pair continues forward in life, they begin to realize that they have more in common and can help each other through life and all of the challenges that it hands them.
As I read this novel, I couldn’t help but feel both elated and saddened. These young women were put through so much in life and still kept moving forward in a world that showed cruelty to them. After the first three lines, I was hooked; I smiled, shed tears (often), laughed, and fell in love with the characters put forward in this novel. I couldn’t help but feel protective towards them and their well-being. A Schneider Family Book Award Winner, Girls Like Us is a compelling and heart warming read that will open the reader’s heart and mind to an entirely different world that is all around us. This book will invoke compassion and love into anyone’s heart, and should definitely be placed on a must-read list for future educators everywhere.