His twin sister has autism

I am a huge fan of Fresh Air on National Public Radio, so just imagine how my ears perked up when I heard this introduction the other day:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. My guest, Allen Shawn, has a fraternal twin sister, Mary, who is autistic. He’s often wondered what her experience of the world is, what she sees, hears and feels. Allen and Mary Shawn were very close until the age of eight, when she was institutionalized. His new memoir, “Twin” is about how Mary’s presence and absence affected his life.

Allen Shawn is a composer. He also happens to be the son of the late William Shawn, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker from 1952 to 1987. Allen’s memoir is called Twin but from this interview it seems the book deals as much, or more, with Allen’s father as it does with Allen’s twin, Mary. Maybe that’s because, as Allen Shawn admitted in the interview, he still is reluctant to talk about his early life with his twin sister, and didn’t see any of her behavior as odd when she was still living at home. From the interview:

To be honest, I may have written this book, but I still find it very difficult to talk about as something strange, and I feel a great deal of shyness about the subject.

If you missed the interview, you can still hear it online. See what you think.


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