An Unexpected Life. Finished 9-8-17, 3.5/5, memoir, pub. 2011
Diagnosed with severe autism as a toddler, Seth Chwast seemed trapped in his own insular universe. His family endured anguish, sought countless therapies, and almost gave up hope. Then, at age 20, Seth took a painting class, and everything changed. Miraculously, he revealed an innate ability to create amazing artworks that reflect his own unique perspective and gave him a voice he had never had.
Written by Seth’s mother, Debra, An Unexpected Life tells the story of their long difficult path, and her determination to help her son. Although Seth cannot safely cross the street alone, he is an icon for anyone who has been in a hopeless situation and then triumphs. More than simply a memoir, this visually breathtaking volume is infused with hope, inspiration, and art. from Goodreads
Jason and I were able to hear locals Debra and Seth speak at an autism conference years ago and it was inspiring to see what this tireless mother has done to make her son shine. Seth was diagnosed with autism at a young age and Debra says in the book that she cried for three years. “For most of Seth’s childhood I was frantic confused, weepy and in over my head” She read and tried every therapy she could find, but when Seth turned 18, she was told that he was most suitable for dry mopping (whatever that is). She hired art therapists, art teachers and just plain artists after it became apparent that Seth had a gift. You can check out his paintings here. Since then they have travelled extensively, had films made about him and even been on the Today Show twice. His works have hung in some very prestigious places and yet he needs 24 hour supervision. Even when he paints she must pay someone to be there otherwise Seth wouldn’t even pick up a brush.
The book is gorgeous and there are at least 120 paintings included, each one including Seth’s own description of it. Seth and his mother have benefitted from an abundance of money, so this is not the autism story many can afford, but that in no way diminishes Seth’s talent. He’s a true artist. It’s how he communicates with the world. You can visit his website here.