Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Any number of adjectives could be used to describe this latest Kennedy-related book, including poignant, engrossing, and unforgettable but the one I’d use is heartbreaking. Kate Larson’s Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter sheds light on the life and struggles of Rosemary Kennedy, the beautiful eldest daughter of Joe and Rose Kennedy, whose intellectual disabilities were a secret highly guarded by her powerful parents. Relying on diaries, letters and family interviews, Larson gives the reader a glimpse into Rosemary’s lonely life; isolated from her siblings, as she was shipped from one exclusive school to another in her parent’s desperate attempts to find a miracle cure to fix their daughter to meet their standards of perfection. The true heartache of the tale though comes when at the tender age of 23 her father decides to have Rosemary undergo a lobotomy, an event which changes the course of her life forever.

The author never passes judgment on the Kennedy’s for their actions or questions their motivations, but provides facts and background and leaves any judgment call to the reader’s personal interpretation. Thankfully, despite attempts to silence her voice or diminish her value, Rosemary made a difference. For she’s undoubtedly the catalyst that pushed her siblings to act on behalf of millions of disabled Americans like her; including Ted passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Eunice founding the Special Olympics.

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter is a hopeful book, in so much as it shows how far we've come as individuals and as a nation in our attitudes towards and treatment of the disabled. A moving and poignant book that will stay with you well after you read its last page.