Book Review: It's Not What It Looks Like by Molly Burke
by Jamie Spannhake
August 20, 2019
On a whim, I listened to Molly Burke's new audio book It's Not What It Looks Like, which is an Audible Original and available for free to Audible members. As you may know, as a person with lots of interests, responsibilities, and obligations, I LOVE Audible. I spend a lot of time in my car, so without audio books, I wouldn't be able to read (listen) to very many books. With Audible (& some free apps through my library: Hoopla and Libby), I read at least two books each month. Usually more.
Molly Burke is a 25-year-old YouTuber who is blind. I don't ordinarily take advice from 25-year-olds, but Molly Burke is an exception. She was born sighted but was legally blind at age 8 and no longer "sighted" by the time she was 14. Because of the many trials she has faced in her short life, and her perseverance to succeed and find her own way, she has the life-knowledge of someone much older. All her stories, which are thoughtful, insightful, and sometimes really funny, provide inspiration to anyone struggling with her differences. Especially if those differences are labeled as disabilities.
One of the key take-aways was that many disabilities are problematic because our world is not designed for people who are different in those ways. This is the social model of disability. In other words, if society was arranged differently, then disability wouldn't be a problem. It's not the disability that's the problem, it's the world. One example that Molly gives to illustrate this point is crosswalk signs with sound. If every crosswalk sign beeped, then the fact that she can't see wouldn't be a problem when she crosses the street. Plus, beeping crosswalk signs would benefit everyone, like curb cuts benefit not only wheelchair users but people pushing strollers.
As a parent of a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia, this book really spoke to me. After I listened to it, I started it over again with my 8-year-old daughter. And she loved it too! I wanted Sarah to hear that it's not her "learning disability" that's the problem. Her dyslexic brain is a difference that is only a problem because of the way we teach reading. If everyone was taught to read in the way she is taught, everyone else would benefit too because it is multi-sensory and fun. If all learning was experiential instead of rote reading, everyone would learn and retain more. After we finished the book, Sarah wrote a letter to Molly thanking her for the book and letting her know it was inspirational to her because she connected to the feelings surrounding a difference that society labels a disability.
I highly recommend Molly Burke's book, especially if you have a difference (& who doesn't?) that is challenging you.