Ralph Savarese


Ralph James Savarese is the author of two books and the co-editor of three collections, including the first on the concept of neurodiversity. A fourth co-edited collection, The Futures of Neurodiversity, is in development through the Modern Language Association. Newsweek magazine called his first book, Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption (Other Press 2007), a “real life love story and an urgent manifesto for the rights of people with neurological disabilities.” While promoting the book, he appeared on a host of radio and TV programs, including NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” and CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism called his new book, See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers, and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor (Duke University Press 2018), a “masterpiece.” The American Library Association said it was a “work of art… highly recommended.” Kirkus Reviews described it as “impassioned and persuasive…a fresh and absorbing examination of autism.” Disability & Society extolled the book’s “critical self-reflection,” calling the ethnographic approach an “exemplar to all those who study ‘others.’

You can listen to Savarese discuss See It Feelingly on these podcasts:

For more information about the book see www.see-it-feelingly.com/

Savarese has appeared in three documentaries, Finding Amanda; Loving Lampposts, Living Autistic; and Deej, the story of his son, DJ’s, inclusion journey. The film, which won a prestigious Peabody Award and was a finalist for an Emmy, follows DJ from 8th grade through his first year at Oberlin College, where he was the institution’s first nonspeaking student with autism. (He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2016.) DJ served as the film’s subject, writer and co-producer. As the old disability rights adage famously declares, “Nothing about us without us!”

Savarese is the recipient of a number of awards: the Irene Glascock National Undergraduate Poetry Competition (the judges were Seamus Heaney and Amy Clampitt), the Hennig Cohen Prize from the Herman Melville Society for an “outstanding contribution to Melville scholarship,” an Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal for Reasonable People in the category of health/medicine/nutrition, a Mellon Foundation “Humanities Writ Large” fellowship (which supported a year-long residency at Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences), two “notable essay” distinctions in the Best American Essay series, two Pushcart Prize nominations, and a National Endowment for the Humanities summer fellowship.

His scholarship, creative work, and opinion pieces have appeared, among other places, in American Literature, American Poetry Review, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Baltimore Sun, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cream City Review, the Des Moines Register, Disability Studies Quarterly, The Ethics of Neurodiversity, Foundations of Disability Studies, Fourth Genre, Frontiers of Integrative Neuroscience, the Houston Chronicle, Inflexions, Inside Higher Ed, Keywords in Disability Studies, the LA Times, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, Love’s Executive Order, Modern Poetry in Translation, Narrative, New England Review, the Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Ploughshares, Psychology Today, Rattle, Rethinking Empathy through Literature, Rorotoko, Salon.com, Seneca Review, Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Southwest Review.

At Grinnell Savarese teaches American literature, disability studies, medical humanities, and creative writing. In Fall 2019, he will be in Chicago, co-teaching the Newberry Library seminar on the history of reading.

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