Reversals by Eileen Simpson

November 16, 2006 at 10:10 pm (education, memoir, nonfiction)

The title of this well crafted memoir refers not only to theReversals author’s dyslexia, a learning disability that causes sufferers to transpose letters and numbers, but to her great turnaround from frustrated non-reader to eloquent writer.

The book itself serves as one of the biggest incentives to start and continue reading. Opening on a fourth grade classroom where her new teacher is ridiculing her in front of the class for not being able to read aloud, eventually reducing the eight year old Simpson to tears,  the images are so strong and so heart breaking the reader automatically wants to find out how that scared little girl came to write such an engaging memoir.

Simpson’s trials as a dyslexic during the time when dyslexia was just starting to be recognized range from the damaging to the devious. There is the aforementioned classroom ridicule, learning to recite text from memory while looking at an open book in order to appear as though she was reading, and her reliance on cheating and buying term papers off of others in order to pass her classes in high school. Her struggles mirror those of the closeted homosexual or the light skinned African-American wrestling with the question of whether the benefits of passing as “normal” are worth the constant fear of exposure?

Her journey into literacy is remarkable in that it was almost entirely self-motivated and taught. Young Simpson learned to enjoy reading in college despite the frequent challenges of being unable to understand what she had read or keep names and situations straight. All that reading defintely paid off. Simpson has quite a way with words. She sprinkles the text with  images and metaphors so memorable, so concrete they seem effortless.

Simpson’s continuing thirst for knowledge lead her to pursue a masters degree in psychology, and she eventually became a practicing therapist. Not long after, she began writing and publishing articles. She admits writing never is and never will be easy for her, but her desire to communicate has driven her to constantly battle a disability that attempts, and continually fails, to hold her back.  Her story is not a simple or easy one, but it is gripping and will hold your attention till the final page.


  1. Steven Torrey said,

    Am now reading ORPHANS: REAL AND IMAGINARY; an excellent read. I was raised as a bastard child in St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Chicago, Illinois, then in St. Anthony’s Orphanage in New Haven Connecticut, then in a Middletown Ct. Foster Home and then in St. John’s School for Boys in Deep River, Ct. Then I attended Mt. St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, RI. At the age of 63–soon to be 64–I conclude it was not a bad way to be raised. Ms. Simpson seems to speak well of her experience also in retrospect, though the reality in the time suggests a burden and a challenge; in retrospect it was for me a good way to be raised, but at the time, it was a burden. I remember reading in college that orphans preferred institutional living because it presented less psychic strain than intense familial relationships. Steven

  2. My Journal said,

    […] Eileen Simpson (Author of “Reversals”). […]

  3. doris smith said,

    the book helped me to understand my life raising 3 sons and coping with a dyslexic husband for over 40 years. Unaware of their situation I was frustrated and guilty about what I was doing wrong. The info has helped me to change my life and spread the word. I am grateful, doris

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