A North Island College faculty member’s timing couldn’t have been better.
Poet, English instructor and author Jordan Scott is the chair of Academic Integrity at NIC, and his children’s book I Talk Like A River was recently reviewed by the New York Times and landed on a top 10 list of children’s books by the Washington Post.
The book features a boy who stutters and feels isolated, alone and can’t communicate the way he would like. His father takes him for a walk by the river to help him find his voice. It is based on Scott’s own experience and wanted to help other children who feel lost, lonely or unable to fit in. The book is illustrated by Canadian Sydney Smith.
In addition to the reviews, the book has been well-received; it is set to be translated into 13 different languages and he has been receiving a significant amount of press since its release.
Oddly enough, however, the recent U.S. election has pushed the topic of stuttering back into the cultural conversation.
“There was a lot of talk that something was wrong with (president-elect) Joe Biden and questions around if his cognitive ability was slowing down. It was painful, as someone who stutters because it showed some real cultural mythology that someone who (may stutter) is not intelligent,” says Scott. “There’s a long history of how stutters are portrayed in film and culture. It’s wonderful to see this broken down.”
He hopes the attention paid to Biden working to manage his stutter will allow more people to pay attention to conversations and hopes his book – which was released about two months prior to the U.S. election -will help break down stigmas about stuttering.
Having sentences interrupted while pausing is not an invitation for a person who doesn’t stutter to finish a sentence, he notes. He describes it as a somewhat aggressive way to listen to someone and hopes the book can make a difference in how people not only speak, but listen.
With a handful of poetry books previously published, I Talk Like A River was Scott’s first venture into children’s literature. He explains that he started writing poetry when he was young, and wanted to show the beauty that language could be to his children.
“Growing up with a stutter was a really personal experience and I wanted to explain the way I speak to my sons. It’s remarkable the way (the book) has really taken on a life of its own.”
A few days prior to Nov. 4 when the Times reviewed his book, Scott was given a heads-up by his publisher it would be in print. He says as an author, to have his book reviewed by the publication is “a very unique and special place … it’s a wonderful experience to have a book recognized that way.”
The Times’ reviewer Craig Morgan Teicher writes while the book won’t cure stuttering itself, it may go a long way toward healing the sense of isolation that is among its most painful effects.
“If I’d had a book like this as a kid, I would have been a lot less afraid to open my mouth,” he notes.
Scott says the response to the book has been overwhelming and humbling, and he is working on two more children’s books set to be released within the next three or four years.
For more information about I Talk Like A River, visit holidayhouse.com/book/i-talk-like-a-river/