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Normal Sucks

How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

Jonathan Mooney

St. Martin's Griffin

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ISBN10: 1250771269
ISBN13: 9781250771261

Trade Paperback

256 Pages



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Jonathan Mooney blends anecdote, expertise, and memoir to present a new mode of thinking about how we live and learn. As a neuro-diverse kid diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD who didn't learn to read until he was twelve, the realization that he wasn’t the problem—the system and the concept of normal were—saved Mooney's life. Here, he explores the toll that our narrow conception of normal takes on kids and adults both. But, he argues, if we can reorient the ways in which we think about diversity and disability, we can start a revolution.

Mooney has been inspiring audiences with his story 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 both a survival guide and a call to action. Whip-smart and inspiring—and movingly framed as a letter to his own young sons—this book will upend what we call normal and empower us all.


Praise for Normal Sucks

"As an accessible primer on reassessing disability and mental health, it’s invaluable, and as an exploration of what it’s like to grow up feeling different, it’s incredibly cathartic."Vanity Fair

"The attempt to make us conform to someone’s definition of ‘normal’ insults the exquisite mutability of the human race. In this candid, poignant, and insightful anthem to all of humanity, Mooney rejects the straitjacket of normalcy and demonstrates through the beautiful telling of his own struggle that humans thrive when we are accepted as we are."Julie Lythcott-Haims, The New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult

“Paradigm-shifting, highly enjoyable, and destined to become hugely influential, this book will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt different—and will open the minds of everyone who has not."Rachel Simon, The New York Times bestselling author of Riding The Bus With My Sister and The Story of Beautiful Girl

“Jonathan Mooney writes an irreverent, funny, and deeply moving . . . Addressing his own children, Mooney transforms complex ideas from the likes of Michel Foucault into understandable readable moments.”Lennard Davis, author of Beginning with Disability

“If you’ve ever questioned who made the rules and why do we have to follow them, this book is for you. With wit, empathy, and defiance, Jonathan Mooney delivers a powerful message from the front lines of the inclusion revolution.”—Liz Benjamin, writer and producer whose credits include Man in the High Castle and Thirteen Reasons Why

“Jonathan Mooney has created a new genre here, where his unflinching recollections propel our collective humanity.”Maryanne Wolf, Director, Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice, UCLA, and author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

“Jonathan Mooney combines personal narrative, history, and critical theory to expose the tyranny of normalcy and its perverse impact on the lives of people with disabilities and other diverse identities. With seriousness and humor Mooney makes the case for confronting ableist assumptions, and creating a world in which the gifts of all people, particularly children are valued. This is a must read for educators, parents policy makers, and all those who seek to create a more just and equitable society. I loved this book!”—Thomas Hehir, author of Effective Inclusive Schools: Designing Successful Schoolwide Programs

“In this wonderfully wry, deeply personal, and insightful book, Jonathan Mooney exposes how the phantom called normal that has made so many of us so miserable comes for us and how we can and should resist. The underside of normal, Mooney reveals, is the shocking history of our American eugenics movement and how close we are right now to the same logic of ridding humanity of all of us who don’t fit into the ever tightening space of normal.”Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Professor of English at Emory University

“This book will make you think. Well researched and written in an accessible and engaging style, Mooney has provided his readers with an interesting and creative guide that will compel us to re-think the purpose of education and how we go approach it. The pressure kids experience to be normal and to experience what we conventionally regard as success, is taking a toll on children throughout the country. Mooney shows us that it need not be this way. For those who are ready to think outside the box, and who are ready to make the changes needed to create learning opportunities that make it possible for children to thrive, this book will be an invaluable resource and a breath of fresh air.”Pedro A. Noguera, Ph.D, Distinguished Professor of Education, Faculty Director, Center for the Transformation of Schools

“Jonathan's compelling book, Normal Sucks, takes readers on a journey that combines personal memoir, critical theory, and scientific history and exposes them to the fallacy of what constitutes normal. Using both warm humor and sharp social critique, Jonathan liberates the reader from the death grip of normalcy, that keeps people them from loving their uniqueness and embracing the diversity of others. This book is a refreshing reminder of the power of embracing our own authenticity and the need to enter into beloved community that celebrates the value and diversity of others. This book is destined to start a revolutions and is a must read for parents, educators, policy makers, and funders."Roberto Rivera, Artist, Educator, Change Agent

"Thought-provoking . . . [Mooney] provides an extensive history of how the idea of normal evolved, giving readers an eye-opening look at the standards we are often forced to live with, whether we know it or not . . . A new, engaging, and informative perspective that redefines what 'normal' should really mean."Kirkus Reviews

"Mooney expertly deconstructs normal in this intelligent examination that will shatter preconceived notions."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

— I —

Not Normal

Normalcy was declared. (Normalcy was always a declaration.)

—Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Still, it would be progress if we could acknowledge that there really...

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About the author

Jonathan Mooney

Jonathan Mooney’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, HBO, NPR, ABC News, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and he continues to speak across the nation about neurological and physical diversity, inspiring those who live with differences and advocating for change. His books include The Short Bus and Learning Outside the Lines.

Chris Mueller