Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Mango-Shaped Space

A Mango-Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, is a YA book about a girl with synesthesia. Synesthesia is a very interesting "neurologically-based phenomenon" in which a person's senses are combined in a different way from most of us. For example, most synesthetes experience letters as colors as well (like, maybe "B"s are a certain shade of green) or that tastes have sounds and so on.

I know a fair amount about synesthesia (I have another book called Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds, by Patricia Lynne Duffy). I think it's a fascinating condition and I'm interested in developing it myself, if such a thing is possible. A Mango-Shaped Space was a bit boring to me because it's explains from a very basic level what it's like to have this condition (from the perspective from a young girl). However, I suppose if you don't know much at all about synesthesia, it would be quite interesting. I'm sure also that young adults themselves would be rather moved by the book (because, beyond her condition, it's about a 13 year old who's sensitive and misunderstood).

Something I remain a bit confused about is that the book won the Schneider Family Book Award, which "honors an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." Whether or not synesthesia is a disability, I'm not convinced. In any event, the book certainly does not indicate that being a synesthete in any way limits the main character's abilities. In fact, it seems to be just the opposite - that her condition (for lack of a better word) is something that makes her unique and special and should be honored and respected.

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