post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Brilliant Idiot
Author: Abraham Schmitt
Major Themes: Dyslexia
Synopsis: A man is able to rise above severe dyslexia and not only earn several university degrees but become a very good counselor for other people.
Because I am the mother (and teacher) of several dyslexic boys, and the wife of a dyslexic man, the topic of dyslexia is one of my top interests. Ever since learning several years ago what to call the collection of symptoms I was facing daily as I struggled to teach my boys to read, I have been studying dyslexia, trying to learn all I can about it and how to work with it. Some time ago, I heard about Brilliant Idiot, and when I was able to get it from the library I read it aloud to my family (and when I finished my husband told me I should have recorded my reading so he could hear it again!).
Brilliant Idiot tells the author’s story of his life. Born as a premature twin in a poor family in an Old Colony Mennonite village in Saskatchewan, with an illiterate father, Abe himself struggled immensely when he started school. He was simply unable to learn. The children were supposed to learn to speak, read, and write English (the village spoke Low German). He could not learn English, and reading and writing were nearly impossible for him. Somehow, after he left high school, he was able to go to Normal School, and then attempted to teach school in another village. His first, and his second, years ended in disaster. After a somewhat more successful third attempt to teach, this time along with his twin brother, Abe went to Goshen College in Indiana—and eventually earned three degrees there! He went on to the University of Pennsylvania where he earned another degree, and then began his own counseling business. Eventually he learned the reason behind all his struggles with reading and spelling, and his total inability to do some simple tasks—dyslexia.
Brilliant Idiot is a vivid picture of a man’s struggles to understand himself and what makes him the way he is. If you are interested in dyslexia at all, I highly recommend this book.