It was an unusual choice for me. It’s a sensitive subject and I know it used to be something to hide, or about which to feel shame. In the time period of my book, it was known as Mongoloidism, or Mongolism, or a whole host of various other, often degrading, names.
In my experience people don’t (and shouldn’t) hide it. Children who would have been institutionalized in the past are now reared to contribute to society and lead happy and productive lives.
I realize I am oversimplifying what is a major issue in many families. I do not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I wanted to look on the bright side, to the families who made the bold decision to raise their children with Down Syndrome (not commonly called that until the sixties) right in front of everyone.
Maybe it’s a lesson I learned from my daughter, who to our surprise won a friendship award in elementary school because she chose to play with the ‘special’ kids during gym. Or maybe it’s because my mother-in-law used to tell me about the beautiful and well-loved baby with the syndrome born to a neighbor in the fifties.
Many in the public weren’t at all accepting back in the forties, when my book starts, which added unnecessary pain to my characters’ lives. I wanted to explore and write about the additional stress public disapproval would have caused on top of the myriad medical problems that can exist.
My book has sad moments. It also has joy and people with strong convictions and determination. Writing about Down Syndrome is a relatively small part of the narrative, but to me, it had to be done.
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