Kathy Sinnott and her friends are the 23 contributors to this entertaining book. Many of them are established and recognised creative contributors to the literary arts through the medium of television, radio and the written word. Kate Thompson, Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly and John Quinn (RTÉ documentary producer) are but a few of the distinguished list of contributors.
The first story, by Kathy Sinnott herself is called ‘The summons’; it makes extraordinary reading. We learn about Kathy’s sister who has Down Syndrome, and her uncle who had a physical disability—early influences for Kathy’s life to come. We read about her visit to the baroque basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Saragossa, and the Madonna’s prediction the baby she was expecting would be disabled. Jamie was born a beautiful, normal-looking, healthy baby boy—seven months later came the shattering realisation that something was seriously wrong.
The story explains the naming of ‘La Pilar’ Early Learning Research and Training Centre, which is designed to be a one-stop shop for families to get the necessary help—based on the premise that one euro spent in early-intervention strategies to prevent cumulative disadvantage and disability, is worth seven spent later on. All proceeds from the sale of Stories for Jamie will go towards ‘La Pilar’. (The location isn’t given, perhaps intentionally.)
For readers, like myself, who only know Kathy Sinnott from her media image fighting for an education for her autistic son Jamie, this book gives interesting and illuminating insights into her motivation and experience. The Preface, Forward and Introduction set the tone of the book in a way that makes the reader look forward to reading it.
A number of stories touch on disability and all deal with insightful aspects of the human condition in an entertaining and imaginative way. I mention this important point, because the rather academic image portrayed on the cover belies the content. A brighter, more colourful cover might have given it the joyful image it deserves, perhaps attracting a broader readership.
In his poem ‘Parkinson’s’, contributor Mícheál Ó Siadhail writes: ‘A face is beautiful once a face is loved.’