Books Author Alcatraz Al Capone Autism Teachers Home
For more about autism, visit the website of
the Autism Society of America
Q. Why did you decide to include a character with autism in your Alcatraz books?
A. When I got the idea to write historical fiction set on Alcatraz, I signed up to be a docent—a volunteer on the island—in order to research the book. Once a week I took the boat to Alcatraz to help out, however the rangers needed me that day. Usually I did “dock duty”—which entailed giving a brief talk to the boatloads of new visitors, letting them know how to take advantage of what the island had to offer. Then I would patrol the island answering visitors’ questions. Walking around the island, I found myself thinking a lot about my late sister, Gina, who had autism. Something about the place reminded me so strongly of her. Because I thought of her so frequently when I visited Alcatraz, I began to wonder if it was a sign from my subconscious that I should put a character with autism in the book.
Q.   Why didn’t you mention the word “autism” in the book?
A.   Autism wasn’t identified until 1943. In 1935 and 1936, when the books take place, people who are now thought to be autistic were given all kinds of different diagnoses. Mostly, they were labeled Schizophrenic or Mentally Retarded.
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