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Anne Crosby

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354-page hardback / 5.38" x 8.5" / ISBN 978-1-58988-026-9 / Publication Date: June 2006

"Crosby creates a beautiful portrait of Matthew throughout his years…Crosby's memoir, both humorous and sad, is raw in emotion and unflinching in its honesty."—Publishers Weekly

"Anne Crosby has written a chronicle of caring—an account of a life that is at once painful, mysterious, and transformative. From draconian institutions to matronly neighbors to adoring friends, Matthew, his parents, and his sister travel a road of full of struggle, humor, and the unknown. This book will remind all people of good will of the enormous struggle that so many families have had to endure to gain even the simplest sense of dignity."—Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics

From the moment she held him in her arms, Anne Crosby had deep fears for her newborn son. Although the staff at the hospital in London paid no attention to her concerns, her instincts were correct: Matthew had Down syndrome. After struggling with her contradictory feelings, Crosby set about doing whatever she could to help Matthew lead as full a life as possible.

Matthew is the moving, honest, perceptive, and often funny account of the life he made with the help of his mother and many other caring people. With an eye for detail and an acute ear for voices, Crosby describes Matthew's family and friends, doctors and teachers—a large cast that includes Gladys Strong, his Cockney caregiver, the famous child psychologist D. W. Winnicott, and Princess Anne, a benefactor of Matthew's boarding school. Crosby evokes the forbidding atmosphere of Normansfield, the residential institution founded by the doctor who gave his name to Down syndrome; the spaciousness of Mentmore, the country estate where she often took Matthew to play; and the touching camaraderie of the hospital ward in which Matthew died of heart failure at age twenty-five.

In this remarkable memoir, Crosby also explores Matthew's inner life, telling of his mimicry and unexpected humor, his outbursts of affection and occasional fits of misery, his gallantry toward his first love, and his disappointment over the loss of his first job. Crosby's portrait gives us an image of Matthew that deepens our understanding of what it means to be human.

"I knew and liked and respected Matthew. I thought he merited a biography, and I'm very glad that he now has one, especially that it is such a very good one. In this singular story, Anne Crosby tells us of Matthew's outer and inner life: his sad acceptances, his capacity to love and fall in love, his ambitions and their fulfillment, and his idiosyncratic sense of humor. Anne Crosby is able to tell us all this because, as we learn again from this book, love and knowledge are very much related. Matthew was a mystery to many. But because his mother empathized with him so keenly and has captured him so precisely with her sharp intelligence and brilliant powers as a writer, Matthew comes to us in this gripping book as a whole and delightful and unforgettable person."—Galway Kinnell

"Crosby’s book (her first) is like a painting. It is there for us to ponder. There is no interpretive wall-card telling us what we ought to think. But what is truly marvelous—and it is because of this aspect of the book that I am writing about it—is her ability to get inside her son’s being and to make him present to us. She grew to be able to understand her son. And now, with the book, she holds him before us. I do not know her artwork, but this is a fine painting."—Victor Lee Austin, author of Losing Susan

Anne Crosby
 was born into a large family in England in 1929. Crosby received little formal schooling as a child, due to the turmoil of the Second World War, her father's "experimental" ideas about education, and having been diagnosed with dyslexia. She came to excel in art school, and at the age of twenty she lived abroad for several years in Rome, Paris, and the Var region of France. After returning to London she painted and taught in art schools. In 1960 she married Theo Crosby with whom she had a daughter, Dido, and a son, Matthew. She continues to paint, and now divides her time between Washington, DC, and London. Matthew is her first book.

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Discussion Questions

  1. What is the significance of the preamble in Anne Crosby's memoir, Matthew? Consider how Anne's mother reacts to Rose and compare that to the story she tells Anne, when she first sees Matthew.
  2. When Matthew is born, Anne remembers when she was a child watching her dog brush away a "seemingly perfect little puppy from her flank." Anne concluded that the puppy's mother must have sensed a flaw that Anne could not see. How does this memory relate to Anne's initial reaction to her handicapped child? Do her feelings towards Matthew change during his lifetime?
  3. Throughout Matthew, Anne worries that his presence might be detrimental to her daughter, Dido. When Anne and Dido meet with the child psychologist Dr. Winnicott, he remarks, upon examining Dido: "Here is the important child, the bright and whole one. We can safely say the other is 'The Throwaway Child.'" Do you agree with his assessment? Do you think his words were helpful or harmful to Dido or Anne? What impact does her brother's life have on Dido?
  4. For most of his life, Matthew lived in a "womanish environment." Anne writes, "In those days it was hardly expected of a man that he concern himself with any children other than his own, particularly not ones of Matthew's sort." Does Matthew struggle with male relationships? What does Matthew think of his father? And what does Theo think of Matthew?
  5. How did the care that Matthew received at the institutions and special schools differ, which he attended, from Gladys's care? Did you ever wonder what Matthew's life would have been like had he stayed with Gladys or even entirely under his mother's care?
  6. Anne regrets that "Matthew was the victim of many people's mistakes." With their limited knowledge about Down syndrome patients, what mistakes do Matthew's caregivers make? Why does Anne object to moving Matthew to "Had-A-Home" (Matthew's name for the school he attended in the town of Milton Keynes)?
  7. Despite receiving warnings from professionals that Matthew wouldn't develop beyond the intellectual level of a three-year old child, Anne is aware of changes in Matthew. As he ages, he grows particularly mindful of his "self image" and struggles to live like a "proper man." In what ways do you think Matthew grows and matures? What is the significance of the "inventory" he keeps in his living arrangement at the heart unit in the hospital?
  8. Matthew's birth alters the relationships Anne has with others. Do you think the relationship between husband and wife suffered? What part does Matthew play in the dissolution of their marriage?
  9. The poet Galway Kinnell writes that Matthew was a mystery to many. But he credits Anne Crosby for portraying Matthew as a "whole and delightful and unforgettable person." Do you think Matthew presents a full portrait of a person with Down syndrome? How would you describe Matthew after reading this memoir?


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