Ralph James Savarese is the author of Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption (Other Press 2007), which Newsweek called a “real life love story and a passionate manifesto for the rights of people with neurological disabilities.” It won the Independent Publishers Gold Medal in the category of health/medicine/nutrition, and a chapter was selected as a “notable essay” in the Best American Essays series of 2004. The book was featured on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” (twice), ABC’s Nightly News with Charles Gibson,” and NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show.” It was reviewed, or mentioned, quite favorably in Newsweek, GQ, Body & Soul, Disability Studies Quarterly, and numerous other journals and web sites.
He is the co-editor of Papa PhD: Men in the Academy Write about Fatherhood (Rutgers University Press 2011). He is also the co-editor of a special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly entitled “Autism and the Concept of Neurodiversity,” which includes the work of some forty contributors (half of whom are on the spectrum), and a special issue of Seneca Review entitled “The Lyrical Body.” His long article “Nervous Wrecks and Ginger-nuts: Bartleby at a Standstill” won the Herman Melville Society’s Hennig Cohen Prize for an “outstanding contribution to Melville Scholarship.” His recent essay “The Lobes of Autobiography: Poetry & Autism” was one of two finalists for the Donald Murray Prize for the best published essay on writing from the National Council for the Teachers of English, and it was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Savarese is also the winner of a National Endowment for the Humanities summer fellowship and a Mellon-funded Humanities Writ Large fellowship, which enabled him to join the Neurohumanities Research Group at Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences for the academic year 2012-2013. At Duke he co-taught a course for undergraduates entitled “Flaubert’s Brain” and a course for fourth-year psychiatry residents entitled “The Language of Trauma.” In February of 2013 he delivered one of the four public lectures that anchor Duke’s “Brain Awareness Week”: “Poetic Potential in Autism: Neurodiversity’s Unexpected Boon.” In May of 2013 he delivered a keynote address at the Boston Trauma Center’s annual conference: “Bridging the Sensory/Linguistic Divide in Trauma: What Teaching Autistic Children How To Write Poetry Might Tell Us.”
Professor Savarese’s criticism has appeared, or will soon appear, in American Disasters (NYU Press), Disability Studies Quarterly, The Ethics of Neurodiversity, Foundations of Disability Studies, Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability, Inflexions, Keywords in Disability Studies, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, Narrative, the Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Politics and Culture, Prose Studies, Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Rethinking Empathy through Literature, and Secret Sharers: Melville, Conrad, and Narratives of the Real. His poems, creative nonfiction, and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine), Autism Perspectives, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cream City Review, Edge City Review, Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family, Flyway, For New Orleans and Other Poems, Fourth Genre, Graham House Review, Gravity Draws You In, Modern Poetry In Translation, New England Review, the New York Times, The Palm Beach Effect: Reflections on Michael Hofmann, Papa PhD: Men in the Academy Write About Fatherhood, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, Poetry International, Poetry Motel, The Poker, Potpourri, Rattle, Segue, Seneca Review, Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Southwest Review, and Stone Canoe. His reviews have appeared in American Book Review, and his opinion pieces have appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Austin American Statesman, the Autism Research Institute’s Adults with ASD eBulletin, the Baltimore Sun, the Cincinnati Post, the Dallas Morning News, the Des Moines Register, the Gainesville Sun, the Houston Chronicle, the Huffington Post, the LA Times, the Louisville Courier Journal, and the Tallahassee Democrat.
Savarese can be seen in the award-winning documentary of the neurodiversity movement, Loving Lampposts, Living Autistic. A film about his son’s inclusion journey, Deej, was just awarded a large grant from Independent Television Services, the programming arm of PBS; it should be aired in late 2014 or early 2015. Savarese teaches American literature, creative writing, and disability studies at Grinnell College in Iowa.