Week 4, Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw


Late Night Reading: Can you spot the puppy snuggled on the blankets in the background?

WEEK 4, Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

Burcaw, S. (2014). Laughing at my nightmare. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press.

This biography is about the life of a man bound by a wheelchair since the age of two after being diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. The book recounts hilarious memories of everyday struggles from the eyes of a man who started a blog about his hilarious life. Events include ones that only someone with spinal muscular atrophy would encounter, like the time his head falls all the way backwards and gets stuck in the middle of class.  The memoir also retells everyday tussles, like attempting to flirt with females in order to find a girlfriend. You won’t be disappointed when you follow this inspiring yet hilarious young man’s story as he experiences everyday life in a not-so-normal way.

Keywords: wheelchair; blog; muscles failing; relationship turmoil

What I Think:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of the humuourous light it shed on a unfortunate and potentially bleak situation. I can’t count on my hands and feet how many times I laughed or felt like I couldn’t stop reading the account of this man’s story because of the humor found within the events. For example, during a presentation in class one day, Shane’s mouth began to freeze up as his muscles began to tire. “It got really bad really fast, and I could tell from my classmates’ faces that nobody could understand me anymore. Then I made the situation worse” (p. 146). This embarrassing yet hilarious event is just one of the many that ends with the reader in hysterics along with the characters.

I also think this book is a great real life account of a relatable person but with a very unique background, such as a physical disability. It is so important that today’s youth be exposed to all types of people, backgrounds, cultures, religions and more. This book adds to this sort of collection and provides a fresh new perspective on life as a young adult and beyond.

What the Experts Say:

Burcaw has spent most of his life in a wheelchair with progressively debilitating spinal muscular atrophy, but instead of soberly presenting the ups and downs of a potentially bleak existence, he pens an uplifting, laugh-out-loud memoir that calls out the absurdity of his circumstances and the joy he finds in the everyday. He shares such universal moments as cops-and-robbers games in preschool, as well as more unique, intimate details of his physical reality, such as the demands of excretion, or how he pursues a healthy young-adult sex life when he is keenly aware that his weakening neck can’t quite hold up his head. Quick-witted Burcaw demonstrates mastery in expressing accessible insights that are well padded in humor, as well as a realistic awareness of his situation leavened by tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, none of which gives way to offputting egoism or navel gazing. Burcaw’s smart, gracious, and funny take on his life is an object lesson in positivity, and this eloquently written and moving memoir would easily find a home in both adult and youth collections. -Francisca Goldsmith

Goldsmith, F. (2014). Laughing at my nightmare. The Booklist, 111(6), 35.

Classroom Recommendations:

This book would be great to include in an important persons’ study with the whole class. Different groups of students could read different biographies and memoirs of people in unfortunate or underprivileged situations similar to Shane’s. Then, the students could hold a discussion to compare and contrast the different perspectives and how each person recounts their personal story. For example, those reading Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw would point out that although the narrator experiences many hardships and awkward situations, he never fails to find the humor in the situation and ultimately his own humility.

This book would also be great to kick off a writing project with students where they would create their own blogs from their own unique perspectives. The author of Laughing at My Nightmare, Shane Burcaw, has a blog where he continuously recounts his life events in hilarity. Students could use his blog and this book as an inspiration and a model for their own personal accounts of their lives on a blog of their own.


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