Is it ever appropriate to judge a book by its cover? Perhaps not, so this is my disclaimer: The following is a review of a book cover, title, and promotional materials, not the book itself. I don't know what Michael Alan has written about why he wishes his children had a potentially fatal disease. I don't intend to shell out twenty dollars to find out, either. I would be willing to bet I could list every point the book makes without reading it, but that is not the same as knowing.
The book's title states clearly, I Wish My Kids Had Cancer. The subtitle references "survival" and an "autism epidemic." The book has a website, where people have left glowing comments about how "this book has changed my life!" There are currently 8 customer reviews on Amazon.com. All rate the book highly, and words like "devastating," "affliction," and "vaccinations" are much in evidence. There is even a facebook group supporting I Wish My Kids Had Cancer.
Of course Michael Alan is not the first to make such an outrageously offensive statement. Last year, Jenny McCarthy said that she would like her son to have measles. Others have had no problem stating that autism is worse than cancer, most famously David Vardy of the Autism Society of Canada, who added, in case anyone missed the point, that autistic people have "a normal lifespan."
Alan's book cover also states that proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to "charities to help families with autism." In case anyone is wondering which charities these might be, the facebook group's description provides a clue:
***Includes expert testimony from leading DAN! Dr. Mary Megson***
So, Mr. Alan wishes his kids had cancer. How is this my problem? Well, because once again, someone is working to stir up fear of autism, and the consequences for autistic people will include continued misunderstanding, exclusion, and abuse. How terrible must a condition be that one's own parent would prefer to see his child faced with cancer? What is the value of such a life? With every such morbid comparison, autism and cancer, autism and tsunami, autism and death, these associations become more tightly woven in the collective consciousness. With each one adding his two cents worth of stigma, the jar fills up. The perceived value of autistic people declines. The thought that autistic people need not exist becomes more ingrained. Until the thought is no longer recognizable as a belief. It's "common sense," background noise.
Lest we forget that there are many families in which a child does have cancer, I cannot imagine that any of them would find Michael Alan's intentionally provocative title amusing in the least. Like anyone else, an autistic person can be affected by cancer. While clearly I abhor this book's title, I also hope in all sincerity, that Michael Alan's wish does not come true.
I would like to thank Andrea Shettle for alerting me to this story.