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Gripping Read

Award-winning Bay Area author Joan Ryan writes of living and coping with her son after a severe accident.


Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Every parent’s worst nightmare is the Accident—not the scraped knee or twisted ankle, but the life-changing tragedy.

In The Water Giver, Joan Ryan (author of Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: the Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters) tells how she lived through the Accident and how it changed her.

Ryan’s adopted son almost died at the age of 16 after falling off a skateboard and hitting his head. The author, who pulled her hair out raising a boy with severe ADHD, finds that her taskmaster hang-ups melted away at her son’s bedside. Ryan, a former award-winning sports writer and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, wrote The Water Giver while teaching at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and sticks to the instincts of her profession even in writing something so personal. She wanted to avoid at all costs something “insular, almost narcissistic.”

“The more we try to fix our kids and crush them into some mold or preconception of what we wanted them to be, the more we do them a disservice, and ourselves a disservice,” she says.

“We waste all our time trying to make them into something instead of appreciating them for who they really are, which is fantastic.”

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