Thursday, December 8, 2016

April's Book Review Series Returns!

Our Holiday Art and Gift Show is under way and I wanted to tell you about some of the merchandise we have besides our standard art and jewelry. We also have some CDs by local musicians and books by people with disabilities and their advocates. Here is a review of a few of these items:

The Sulak Family is a story about autism and hope by Sandra Sulak. The Sulaks live in the small town of Louise, TX and I have been happy to know them for several years. David Sulak is an artist with autism who has been involved with our Artworks program since the early 2000s. He creates detailed drawings and constructions of trucks, cars, and buildings. In 2015, on a trip back from Corpus Christi I got a chance to visit the Sulaks at their home. It was great to see David’s home studio and gallery and to visit with his mother who is always so pleasant on the phone. Getting to know her better, I learned more about the troubles her family went through raising two sons with autism. She mentioned she had a book coming out, which luckily was published just in time to include in our holiday show. I just finished reading it and I recommend it as a quick read and powerful book to gain some insight into one family’s struggles with the school system in the 1970s. A simple farming couple is thrust into a world of medical diagnoses and disability rights legislation in order to secure a good education for two young boys with very different versions of autism. Danny, older than David by 13 months, has anger issues and is placed in a group home. David, negatively affected by his older brother’s behavior, is treated badly in school until lawyers get involved. The book moves swiftly through their schooling and into adulthood where they both become as well adjusted to life as they can thanks to the hard work and determination of their mother, Sandra Sulak.
The cover of The Sulak Family features a photo of Sandra Sulak, smiling, wearing a white dress with red polka dots, and holding her infant son dressed in a bright red outfit.
We also have two CDs of original music in the holiday show. One is called Vivid Dream by Michael Noriega. We met Michael in 2015 when he was one of our summer film interns. He is a friendly and intelligent young man who is driven to succeed. I didn’t know he was a singer and musician until we received his CD for the holiday show. Listening to this 16-track album, I am blown away by Michael’s talent. As he says in his liner notes, “This concept album took me three years to complete. I based it on personal experiences. It’s about spirituality, daydreaming, romance, imagination and my thoughts about reality.” The title is Vivid Dream and the CD has an overall dreamy quality to it with the keyboards, orchestration, and overdubs. Michael does a great job of arranging the songs to a nice arc that starts off strong and upbeat, moves into darker and dreamier songs, then back up. Overall it is a very well-conceived group of songs that can transport you to a dream state while listening. Listen to a sample below:

The other album in our shop is This Was Never Meant To Be Permanent by Eric Clow. Eric is our Opening Minds, Opening Doors Project Coordinator. We were all excited when this album came out because we have been listening to Eric perform at our monthly open mic for a few years now and his music is always a big crowd pleaser. This CD contains 8 songs, mostly originals with a few well placed covers. Eric has a unique vocal and playing style that makes you instantly recognize his music when you hear it. His songs are a strange mix of positively upbeat and utterly bleak all at the same time in the same song. His tunes are catchy and make you want to listen again and again. My favorite song on the album is "Whiskey Sours." Here's a sample from his CD:

This book and these two CDs are just a few of the unique works created with talent, love, sweat, and tears by our friends of VSA Texas. We encourage you to come out to our Holiday Art and Gift Show to check out all of the meaningful pieces that our artists put their heart and soul into creating. We are open Monday-Saturday from 10-4 through December 23rd in Room 101 of the AGE Building, entrance at 3707 Home Lane in Austin.

You can hear Michael Noriega play his music at our Meet the Artists Reception this Saturday, December 10th from 1-4 pm. And you can hear Eric and Michael plus other great acts at Library Live: Special Edition featuring Musicians with Disabilities at the Carver Branch Library on Saturday, January 28th from 2-4 pm.

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