Barb Rentenbach’s fantastic, funny, poignant and beautiful, must read book, I might be you. An Exploration of Autism and Connection is now available as an audio book! Full disclosure: Barb, who is non-speaking or “mute” as she describes herself, and Autistic, asked me to be her voice for the audio book, an honor I cannot begin to fully express. I do not receive any proceeds from the sale of the audio book. The payment I receive is the joy I feel knowing that Barb was pleased with the end result. It is a joy that is literally priceless… That all of you, who purchase the audio book, may benefit from Barb’s hard work is the metaphoric icing on an already sumptuous and exquisitely rich cake.
Barb is non-speaking and writes with a sharp-witted, R-rated, take no prisoners eloquence. She is brutally honest in her description of her life as someone who is often mistaken as someone she is not. For anyone who has ever felt they are on the fringes of society, felt they didn’t “fit in”, judged, seen as an “outsider”, as “other”, as less than, this book will resonate. For anyone who has ever felt insecure, shunned, rejected, judged, criticized or misunderstood, this book is for you. I Might Be You is about how we are more alike than not.
In preparation for this post, (and a version of this that I will be submitting to the Huffington Post) I asked both Barb and Lois Prislovsky, Barb’s therapist and co-author of I Might Be You to give me their thoughts on the making of the book and subsequent audiobook. Lois wrote: “Barb typed, “being heard may be as close to helping to cure all that ails ya as one prescription gets.” I agree. As a psychologist, I get a daily front row seat to this truth. What I find most remarkable about Barb is not her spectacular growing wisdom, wit, or even her gifted powers of perception. It’s her patience that I think is unparalleled. This book literally took her over 10 years to write one disappointment, milestone, and letter at a time. My chapters were faster because as Barb says, I am, “less interesting”. No one book or person has taught me more. Barb is my favorite author and teacher.”
It took Barb ten years to write I Might Be You because she knew there would be those who would doubt the words in the book were her own and some who would even accuse her of not typing this book herself as she first learned to type with a facilitator. Determined, she spent ten years learning to type independently, each word spelled out, one index finger jabbing at a letter at a time as she pushed beyond her physical and neurological challenges that made typing completely on her own so very difficult. Ten years.
I asked Barb to weigh in on what it was like for her to hear her words being spoken out loud by someone who not only was not autistic, but who needed a great deal of direction during the recording! By the way, Barb was a terrific director: kind, patient, encouraging, yet exacting and uncompromising in her insistence that her words be given the voice she needed them to be. I wrote about my experience of recording her words ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘ on this blog. But this post today… this post has to be Barb’s words, Barb’s experience written in Barb’s voice and not mine. This is what Barb wrote to me:
“health: the state of being free from illness or injury.
“in preparation for this piece, az asked me to “let me not speak for you but rather hand the huffpo mic over to you”.
“i think she just cured my autism. and what a great slogan ‘mics to mutes’ makes.
“before some poor clerk from the dmv (department of miracle validation) at the vatican calls my number, please know I am still an autistic mute so it will just go to voice mail. but, i have finally been freed from 4 decades of ills. it turns out being heard may be as close curing all that ails ya as one prescription gets.
“for 40 years, autism has been seen by all to hold me back. today, autism propelled me forward as my whole self towards my life’s goal of being a successful writer.
“am i dreaming? yes. and this dream i hand pecked.
“az asked specifically what is my experience of hearing my words being read by another.
“well, it is healing. for several years now, people have read the words i typed and that has allowed me to accomplish a more independent and quality life. but those words were read. meaning people ran them through their personality filters and voice boxes and simply got my gist. the gift az is referring to is completely different.
“my lourdes miracle cure happened at the hangar studios in nyc. there, my great difficulties in communicating and forming relationships were lifted – permanently. this spectacular healing happened when a beautifully open woman with a strong, feminine, and southern twang free voice gifted me what i lacked with no cords attached. my not so virgin az appeared and did not read my gist. she got out and selflessly let me drive her luxury voice for a full week to transport my 10 years of pecked letters to let my 40 years of not talking be heard.
“i still don’t look normal. i appear quite messed up and a prime candidate for nothing but pity and patronization with a sprinkling of repulsion and fear. i am disguised as a poor thinker with a filthy squeegee whom most veer to avoid. so why did az give me the key? because I asked.
“like me, like you, like “THEM”, poetry is best heard. two of my favorite lines from derrick brown’s poetry are, “dumb as a bomb on a boomerang” and “kiss like u couldn’t beat cancer”. being heard is key.
“we are all each other’s cure. god cares about us all through us all.
“please say this out loud as i am borrowing your voice to be heard again (only a lunatic would give up voice jacking at this point. plus think of the icky karma involved if one denies an autistic mute such a simple request.) : “i will not be as dumb as a bomb on a boomerang. i will be here and hear like i couldn’t beat cancer so today i free myself and others from illness and injury.”
“hear and ask to be heard.
“thanks for listening. healthy b”
Barb and Lois at Hangar Studios in New York City ~ April, 2013