This book club is a partnership between Peaceful Oblivion and the UCSU Society of Inclusive Reading.

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The club meets once a month to discuss a book which has an underlying theme of SEND and Inclusion. Between meetings, members will read the chosen book, which they ensure is available to students at the university, online or town library.

The aim of the group is to gain a greater understanding of inclusion and to enjoy reading and discussing high quality literature.

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What is SEND?

A child or young person of compulsory school age is said to have SEND if they:

  1. Have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age.
  2. Have a disability which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream schools or mainstream post-16 institutions.


Title | The Rosie Project
Author | Graeme Simison
Genre | Contemporary Romance
Pages | 297
Publisher | Simon & Schuster
Series | Don Tillman, #1
Release Date | October 1st, 2013

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

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The Rosie Project is a quirky, romantic, comedy narrated by Don, and thereby allowing us to see the world from his unique perspective. Don is a Genetics expert and lecturer from Melbourne, Australia, with undiagnosed Asperger’s Disorder (causing his social awkwardness and an inability to read social cues) and what seems to be a rampant case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (which leads him timetabling his life minute by minute). He is incredibly scientific and intelligent within the confines of academia, so when he decides that he would like to get married he develops a scientific questionnaire, called the Wife Project, in order to find himself a compatible partner. However, his best friend and fellow professor Gene, (a chauvinistic, womaniser who is clueless of the effect his aim to sleep with a woman from every country is having own his ‘open marriage’) feels that Don needs to be more flexible, so sets him up with Rosie, one of his psychology, graduate students. Rosie is obsessed with finding her biological father and the complete opposite of everything that Don is looking for.

A spontaneous, combative, vegetarian, who smokes, and tends to hide her real emotions, Rosie has a romantic idea of love. She is initially attracted to Don but she wants to be loved whole heartedly rather than because of compatibility, and definitely does not think the Wife Project is a good way to get married.

Don quickly realises Rosie does not meet the Wife Project requirements and so rejects her as a potential partner, but the mystery of who Rosie’s father could be intrigues him and together, they create the Father Project. The only thing that Rosie knows about her father was that she was conceived on the night of her mother’s graduation. The pair go undercover as bar tenders at Rosie’s mother’s class reunion in order to get the DNA of all the men there for Don to test at the universities’ lab. When this fails to produce a match the two decide to fly to New York to get the DNA of another potential father. This trip leads to Rosie feeling that Don is too set in his ways, and she tells Don she no longer wants to see him. Don therefore tries to change and become more flexible so that he can win her back. In the end Don discovers not only who Rosie’s father is, but that sometimes something that seems completely illogical and wrong for you can be just right. True love doesn’t have to be scientific.

Discussion:

How accurate a portrayal of someone with Asperger’s is Don’s character?

The character can be seen as fulfilling a ‘comical’ stereotype of someone on the Asperger’s spectrum, rather than creating a three-dimensional character, much like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. This kind of caricature could cause problems for   people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Because of the high-profile nature of The Big Bang theory people think this form of high functioning Asperger’s is what autism is, and it takes away from the struggle of living with ASD. This book is in some ways adding to this misconception. People unfamiliar with the condition may assume that there is a great degree of insight and therefore if someone with ASD says something that goes against social protocol they are being rude or cheeky, rather than because they are unable to fully interpret social cues. However, Don’s condition is undiagnosed, so it is likely to be at the less severe end of the spectrum. Also, his Asperger’s is not a key aspect of the story, its more about seeing the world from his point of view, which is good as it may help people to understand a different perspective, which is a key aspect of inclusion.

The aspects of the condition that are well represented is his being very intelligent- being average or above average intelligence is a common feature with Asperger’s.  It is not a ‘Learning Difficulty’ its about not being ‘neuro-typical’ – a way of seeing the world a bit differently from majority of people.

The problems with social interaction are also typical for those with Asperger’s, but in slightly less insightful ways. For example, Don does a speech on Asperger’s, but can s not diagnose himself, but he can change aspects of his behaviour to win over Rosie. This seems inconsistent, and atypical. Also, as a society we should be aiming for inclusion for all, rather than promoting the idea there are strict social norm which everyone should stick to.

For more information about Asperger’s and ASD please visit-

https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx

https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asd.aspx

Overview:

Although it needs to read as fiction and understood it is not based on, or written by a person with Asperger’s, this is a sweet, enjoyable, and very funny story which can start a conversation about Asperger’s and different ways of seeing the world. We would definitely recommend it and read it again. This book was awarded 4 out of 5 stars.

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