Using Lyricism to Create Snapshots of Time
By Yolande Clark-Jackson
Beth Kephart’s first book, A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage, is a deeply personal and moving memoir about Kephart’s journey to help her son Jeremy who has been diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder, a disorder that shares some characteristics found in autistic children. Kephart details how the social and emotional challenges impact her and her family. She says, “This is a book about a little boy and his mother. It is about a child who against all odds is learning to live in this world, to even incredibly, make it better. It is about shame, prejudice, fear, solitude, and their natural counterparts. About reaching out and holding on.”
Kephart relies on poetic strategies to tell her story. There are lots of beautifully written lines of stringed metaphor and simile. This allows her to compress time and events into images and gets her readers as close as possible to her thoughts and feelings at the time. She writes, “I sequester myself in my own concern, and the house leans into itself like an abstraction” (52).
She also uses repetitive strategies to add cadence to her prose and give snapshots of a series of events. “I have to say that it wasn’t easy. I have to say that the weeks seemed endless and that friendships dwindled and that what I considered youth left me. I have to say that there were wars inside me and fists pounded into the bed at night” (149). She also described her son’s healing as being “like tidewater –the warm edge of the sea stretching in and retreating, the sound of a rolling fury never far off.”
Through a series of snapshots, the story covers the first five years after the diagnosis. They find good schools, loving teachers, and friends for her son, Jeremy. By the end of the book she admits that she is still unable to articulate “what’s wrong” with her son. His diagnosis of PDD (Pervasive Development Disorder) remains “a cipher.” She does find ways in. She writes, “In the absence of medical understanding, a proven therapy, a crystal ball, my husband and I looked to love as the only possible solution.”
Kephart uses lyricism to tell a moving story about a growing development disorder that affects thousands of children. Through vivid images she gives an intimate look at a mother and a son who learn to navigate a unique life together. It is a beautiful book that can be read as a love story or a story of adversity and triumph.