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My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir

Review

My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir

Though she is only 25 years old, author Samantha Abeel has a lifetime of experiences to share. MY THIRTEENTH WINTER chronicles her childhood and teen years with dyscalculia, a learning disability that prevents her from telling time, counting change accurately, and performing simple math --- functions that most people take for granted.

A majority of the book focuses on her struggles in school. Because she did exceptionally well in most classes, especially English, administrators and even her parents couldn't figure out why she was unable to learn math. She was therefore kept out of both gifted and remedial classes. Abeel describes some coping mechanisms she used to get along in classes without really understanding the material. But by the time she reached algebra courses, there was no way to hide her problem any longer, and her life began to disintegrate while she tried to find answers.

There are many valuable insights in this memoir that make it an important read for teens and adults alike. Abeel provides startling descriptions of the attitudes toward kids in special education, including an example whereby someone asked why she was in that type of math class when she was a "nice girl."

Even after she published her first book of poetry and spoke at conferences about her disability, Abeel endured a frustrating summer job that conflicted in every way with her problem. Her continued efforts to achieve as a person without a learning disability would cause her to become depressed in high school and college. It is the story of this struggle that elevates MY THIRTEENTH WINTER above other I-overcame-my-problem books. Abeel is sympathetic and makes it clear to the reader that failure is going to happen sometimes, but that it is still possible to reach one's goals and dreams. She found her balance in acceptance of her limitations and in the development of her writing skills. People with other kinds of problems will easily be able to relate to her experiences.

The college years, in which Abeel worked desperately and was able to even spend a semester in Israel, were somewhat hurried over in this title. Readers can only hope that there will be more books from this author in the future.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on October 18, 2011

My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir
by Samantha Abeel

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2003
  • Genres: Autobiography
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Orchard
  • ISBN-10: 0439339049
  • ISBN-13: 9780439339049