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Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and Kids: A Few Ideas to Get Moving on Solutions

By #LetsStayConnected, The Writing Life
It’s November – time to plan turkey day with our families. But it’s also Alzheimer’s Awareness month, and I want to give some space here to kids and families who are in the midst of it. First, here’s a pretty comprehensive article from the National Institute on Health on the topic if you're working with kids in this situation. It's available in Spanish, too, important since 15% of Hispanics ages 65 and older are diagnosed with the disease. The Merci Suárez trilogy is, of course, set in the world of a girl coping with middle school life as well as with her grandfather’s accelerating illness. I’ve done my best to capture all of it as honestly as possible in the pages. Still, when I book-talk the story with readers, I almost always lean heavily into Merci’s hijinks with friends and foes, in other words, the funny parts. But lurking in the background is Lolo’s illness. It's palpable, page to page, and I know that in the book, as in life, the reality of a person's decline is at times overwhelming.   I hope you’ll take a little time this month to reflect on the people in our communities who are facing this as-yet incurable illness as well as the 11 million people – including kids - who love and support them. They're in your class, at your church, on your soccer team, living on your block. The kids in these families need relief. They need moments of levity. And they...
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When an Epidemic Calls

By Discussion materials, The Writing Life
You’re never sure how a book is going to connect with readers. Sometimes it’s a character that hooks readers. Other times, it's a plot point. Sometimes just your voice or style is enough. Turns out, though, sometimes it’s about loss and pain, too. Merci Suárez Changes Gears has drawn readers in lots of ways, but one of the most important ways has been in its unvarnished view of Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the most rapidly growing epidemics in the US. When I included that storyline in Merci, I was unaware exactly how many people face this situation every day with no caregiving safety net in place. All I really knew was that my uncle, Diego, was taken from us that way – a little bit at a time, until the once sweet and charming man was left virtually erased in a world of strangers. It was grueling to watch my cousin and his family face the many hard days and difficult decisions about his care. This past June, when I traveled to DC to accept the Newbery award, Candlewick scheduled a signing for the librarians at the ALA conference.  The first woman in that line placed several copies on my table and just asked for my signature. When I was about halfway through, she leaned in and whispered tearfully, “I just lost my mother to Alzheimer’s a few months ago.” I put my pen down. My heart broke for her instantly because I knew what that journey must have looked like....
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