I simply couldn’t conceive of how devastating it would be not to be able to hear my childrens’ voices. Not to be able to communicate with one’s children, to hear them learn, grow, and express themselves verbally.
– Kate Winslet
When Simon & Schuster contacted me to ask if I would review The Golden Hat, I said yes, immediately. The book is Kate Winslet’s baby. The profits will go to support those with autism. I love Kate Winslet. I think she is one of the finest actors of our time. She does not have a child affected with autism, but became close to one while doing the voice over for a documentary called, A Mother’s Courage, aka The Sunshine Boy. As her friendship with Margaret, (the mother of a child with autism and the woman who made the film) progressed, an amazing thing happened. Margaret’s ten year old son Keli, who was non-verbal and profoundly affected by autism began to speak on an augmentative communication device. His first words,
I am real.
He was in there. He was aware. He was listening to everything. A physician had told the family to assume he had the cognition of a toddler. That doctor was dead wrong.
At ten years old, this mother finally “met” her child.
It also turned out that many other things they assumed about Keli were wrong. His preferences, his interests. All wrong. And guess what? He’s a poet. One of his poems is titled The Golden Hat, thus the title of the book and the foundation they have formed to help secure communities for those with autism to live in when they mature into adulthood. Any parent with a child on the spectrum has that nagging fear…what will become of my child after I am gone? The Golden Hat Foundation is working on that.
Kate Winslet schmoozed a whole bunch of celebrities into taking self-portraits with her own fedora in the shot. And that hat got around! Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Daniel Radcliff, Angelina Jolie, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Leonardo DiCaprio (of course), Rosie, Christina Aguilera, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Gwenyth Paltrow, Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman….this list is seriously just skimming the surface. There are so many celebrities in this book. She even got Steven Spielberg to take a shot of himself in the hat! What’s great about the photos is they are not fancied up. They are taken with Kate’s digital camera. Accompanying the photos are quotes from the celebrities. They were asked to think about being trapped inside a body, unable to speak, what would they be wanting to say?
Some of the celebs clearly didn’t understand the assignment, their quotes don’t make sense. A couple didn’t offer a quote (Angelina), but most of them did. Many of the celebs used the hat to hide behind. I thought that was interesting.
When the book came in the mail it felt like a present, which I guess it was. I didn’t have to pay for it. It’s a gorgeous coffee table type book. I sat out on the deck with a nice glass of lemon water. There was a balmy breeze as it’s been an unseasonably warm March. I let my own kids play on their iPods and spent the afternoon pouring over the stories and the photos and Keli’s poems and I couldn’t help but think of my mama friends whose kids are non-verbal. Betsy, Kathi, Jeneil, Kim, and so many others. All with different takes on autism. All with different ways of coping. All with so much love for their kids.
I closed my eyes and just sat there, holding all parents who are on this road in my heart.
Real familes. Real mothers. Real children, just like Keli.
They are real.
*Proceeds from the book support The Golden Hat Foundation. I was not paid to write this review but as noted in my post, I did receive a free copy of the book.