How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines
Confessional and often hilarious, in Normal Sucks a neuro-diverse writer, advocate, and father meditates on his life, offering the radical message that we should stop trying to fix people and start empowering them to succeed
Jonathan Mooney blends anecdote, expertise, and memoir to present a new mode of thinking about how we live and learn—individually, uniquely, and with advantages and upshots to every type of brain and body. As a neuro-diverse kid diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD who didn't learn to read until he was twelve, the realization that that he wasn’t the problem—the system and the concept of normal were—saved Mooney’s life and fundamentally changed his outlook. Here he explores the toll that being not normal takes on kids and adults when they’re trapped in environments that label them, shame them, and tell them, even in subtle ways, that they are the problem. But, he argues, if we can reorient the ways in which we think about diversity, abilities, and disabilities, we can start a revolution.
A highly sought after public speaker, Mooney has been inspiring audiences with his story and his message for nearly two decades. Now he’s ready to share what he’s learned from parents, educators, researchers, and kids in a book that is as much a survival guide as it is a call to action. Whip-smart, insightful, and utterly inspiring—and movingly framed as a letter to his own young sons, as they work to find their ways in the world—this book will upend what we call normal and empower us all.
Mooney (The Short Bus), a speaker on neurological diversity who was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia at age 10, aims to eradicate the word normal from readers' vocabularies with this persuasive analysis. To understand how the concept of normal became a social phenomenon, Mooney traces the word back to its roots as a mathematical term in the 1840s, which referred to the common bell curve. As Mooney tracks the word through the decades (including its usage in eugenics, anatomy, and physiology), it becomes clear that the term creates problems when referring to human behavior and physiology because, in Mooney's words, "normal was created, not discovered, by flawed, eccentric, self-interested, racist, ableist, homophobic, sexist humans. Normal is a statistical fiction." In particular, he rails against the history of vague, flawed standards for measuring and labeling human behavior, particularly when designing treatments that supposedly aim for "patients" to become "normal" as in Mooney's own case. He also argues that grouping some people as "normal" has led to the dehumanization of people who are differently abled or neurodiverse, and believes that each person should be considered in their own right, not compared to a normative standard. Mooney expertly deconstructs normal in this intelligent examination that will shatter preconceived notions.