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I had arrived in a comfortable place with my feelings regarding Kelle Hampton. Happy that she had toned down the seemingly endless tea-parties on her popular blog, Enjoying the Small Things , and had turned some attention to Down syndrome.
It was a nice spot, that comfortable spot. It was warm and friendly and I rather liked tapping in to her blog from time to time to see what was new. Imagine then my astonishment at cracking open her memoir, Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected and discovering almost immediately that it must have been written by an entire other.
Using broad strokes full of sweeping generalizations, worn platitudes, exhausted cliches and sophomoric adjectives, Kelle paints a picture of her life. Unlike Monet however, the painting does not become a masterpiece when viewed from a distance. Then she has Nella, her daughter with Down syndrome and she undergoes great pain and grief before transforming herself from someone who likes to have a good time and party while wearing great clothes, drunk — to someone who likes to have a good time and drink while wearing great clothes.
In her 5 day hospital stay with her heartbreak over having Nella, Kelle is with her friends while Brett brings the beer. The night she wrote her famous birth story — she wrote through her agony; Brett brought her beer. Rather, I was struck at the seeming senselessness of their union — why be together? Just to drink? Get wasted and skinny dip with the neighbors, as she writes of?
The content being what it was for me, I turned to look and absorb her actual writing — the business of crafting sentences, pulling them together with meaning. I think Kelle does a good job of writing in her blog, after all.
I felt lost in a maze of repetition, contradictions in the very same paragraph! It triggered an attack of depression. If this book is making bestseller lists as it is , if this book is receiving great reviews as it is , then its success obviously stems from the deep and essential pity that the general population feels for a young mother who receives a surprise diagnosis upon the birth of her child with Down syndrome.
The success of this book hammers the point of how much further the walk of inclusion and advocacy remains, because I am confident there is absolutely no way this book could be successful on the basis of superior writing.
Her life is one blessing after another. She has money. A full backing of friends. She has health, beauty. She even has a gay dad, for crying out loud! What more could one ever ask for?
I would believe her ability to be a solidly bright and positive spirit if I saw something in her life — besides having a child with Down syndrome — which was truly a challenge. Getting burned like NieNie maybe. Or growing up poor — or ugly. Or teased. Or abused. Or just… something more than the awfulness of owning a house with year old tiles and not wood floors…Or having a child with Down syndrome… sigh.
On the bright side — the photos — of which there are an abundance — are first-class. Kelle is in over half of them, so obviously some uncredited soul is highly involved. The ones she did take however, are lovely. Nella — and therefore by extension, Down syndrome — is thus portrayed by Kelle while garbed in fashionable attire, at good angles, in lovely light and with fetching accessories.
I wish I liked this book. I think that while she is a very good blogger, she is not a very good writer — living proof that there is a an enormous difference between handling a blog and writing a book.
Furthermore, I am upset that she is a representative of the Down syndrome community, indeed she is the representative.
Or, if they do, have the good sense to not write about it in their books. This makes my skin crawl. I grieved. The Down syndrome community would read me the riot act for my honesty.
But this lady? This lady with the freaking red lipstick, the freaking cupcakes, the constant drinking? She gets praised and raised up as a savior for our community. Our community tells the world that you only need 5 days, endless beer, and zero communication with your spouse to get over a diagnosis. I think Kelle was in a weird place before the book.
A blogger and a photographer who was thrust into the advocacy position just because her daughter has Down syndrome. But if this her deepest, darkest stuff being held up as an example of what life with Down syndrome is like, then I am not sure I feel so bad for her any more. Writing this book was a choice. It really just kind of makes me giggle at how silly it is. She has raised a lot of money and that is pretty remarkable.
But she was getting awards before she ever even did that. The night I finished the book, I sat up writing until late in the night. I grieved when Ellie was diagnosed. I was angry for a while. At times, I am still upset. I am not upset for having Ellie, but I am upset with all of the trappings that come with having Ds. I am pissed every time we miss out on something because she has therapy or she has yet another specialist appointment.
At times I am frustrated when I do not understand what Ellie wants because she cannot talk and has trouble signing. Anyway, what I am saying is that I am a little further along than Kelle in my journey with Ds and I still doubt I could write a memoir. She has brought lots of attention to Down syndrome through her blog which I believe is good, but it appears that life is perfect.
There are no therapies, no heart conditions, etc mentioned in her blog. She has a great platform to make a difference, but has chosen not to use it. That is her choice, but I cannot help but be saddened by this. Anyway, I will probably read her book because I am curious about the woman behind the blog.
Through her blog and stunning photography, she has been thrust into the spot light of advocacy so yeas, I am curious.
She was invited and she accepted. Ask someone who is seasoned. Wow, you hit the nail on the head on so many levels. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Get ready for the vitriol that is surely coming your way now! We need some loud advocates that want to really stand up for disability rights and disability pride instead of creating pity and condescension. This review made me smile. Tell it how it really is! I gave credit where credit is due but I absolutely agree with you on many points.
The one I will highlight here is the complete depression that set in. I did read the book. Let me start by saying that I like reading her blog. I thought the book was not inspirational.
I agree that two years into this journey is too short period of time to pretend to write a memoir. I think the book is more about her and her perfect life than about her life as a new mom of a girl with Ds.
Sometimes I wonder how did she get so far?! It amazes me! Thank you for writing this! Like you! Please, please write your review. Thank you for your honest and well written analysis of her book. Bravo, M! Thank you for writing how you really feel and not fearing the people who feel a need to put you down for just being honest in how you feel. You are a fantastic writer and this is an excellent, well thought out review. Oh my goodness, I love this post! And her pictures are lovely.
But her life just often seems so superficial to me—all about having a Martha Stewart-perfect party and having everything just so. I had my baby son 21 weeks ago and found out in the delivery room that he has Down syndrome. Most strikingly, the fact that she wanted to run away from her baby upon learning of her diagnosis.
That was just completely foreign to me. And in reading Bloom, I learned about how she consistently leaned on her friends for support during that traumatic time.
That, too, was strange to me.
Bloom, by Kelle Hampton
I had arrived in a comfortable place with my feelings regarding Kelle Hampton. Happy that she had toned down the seemingly endless tea-parties on her popular blog, Enjoying the Small Things , and had turned some attention to Down syndrome. It was a nice spot, that comfortable spot. It was warm and friendly and I rather liked tapping in to her blog from time to time to see what was new.
BLOOM: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected
It was two days before Lainey's first birthday when Brett finally gave in and agreed that we could try for another baby. I had longed for one since the day Lainey grew out of the light blue cotton sleeper with the pink strawberries on it that I associated with every ounce of newborn-ness she possessed. And at that party, as we watched our little girl blow out her candle and smear white frosting all over her cheeks in celebration of that first astounding year of life, I was comforted by the fact that the sadness I felt surrounding her getting older would soon be replaced by the joy of knowing another "little" was on the way. But it didn't happen. I had gotten pregnant with Lainey within two months, so by the fourth month of trying for my second baby, I grew impatient.