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Letters About Literature National Winners 2005

National Winner, Level 2: Gabe Goodman

Greeley, Colorado

Dear Terry Trueman,

A book is a book, and that was the way I always thought it would stay. To me, books just stated a story, and they couldn't change a life or create a miracle. It was only about a month ago when those thoughts disappeared. A book had proven me wrong, and that book was yours.

I have a brother who has autism. I have always loved him "mentally," but I had a hard time dealing with him "physically." If my brother ever happened to die, I would be devastated. I want him to live a full, happy life. It's just that he is a HUGE annoyance. Even right at this moment while I'm typing this letter, he is bugging me. Even the presence of him agitates me. I do know it is not his fault.

It has always been easy for me to learn. My mother was told I ws gifted when I was in preschool. She was told my brother was retarded when he was three. I feel like I'm the opposite of him. I'm sharp; he's blunt. I toe the line; he uses foul language and gets away with it. I'm left out; he is "in" every second. I saw him as a lucky, ignorant boy.

Yet for some reason, my brother looked different to me after I read your book Stuck in Neutral. Questions nuked my brain as I read it: "Could my bro be like Shawn?" "Can my brother in actuality be smarter than I am?"

After finishing your book, my brother did not look blunt From the way I saw him at that moment, he could beat Ken Jennings 500 times in a row. If Shawn in Stuck in Neutral could think up brilliant ideas and understand everything he heard, isn't it possible for my autistic brother to do the same?

You have brought me closer to my brother. I love my brother dearly, and you have enabled me to understand him a bit more. You have even made me feel less irritated with his actions. In the process of making me love him a bit more, however, you've also made me feel resentment. I resent the fact that he could possibly be trapped inside his mind and does not have the verbal skills to get out. If I could give up part of my intellectual ability to set him free, I would do it without hesitation. And yet, I would be giving him something priceless to me that he would never understand. I don't know if I should care or not.

You book has created a miracle. It has brought two brothers closer together. You have made me love him more than anything, but—sadly—my brother will probably never know or comprehend this gift. Still, I thank you.

One last thing—my amazing brother's name is Benjamin Goodman.


Gabe Goodman