Book by: Kevin Michael Connolly
Review by: Tracy Nowak
Advising & Career Planning
Most people, at some point in their lives, have felt out of place. They have felt that they do not belong, and that everyone else is staring at them because of their differences. This may or may not be an accurate impression. In Kevin Michael Connolly’s case, it is extremely accurate, and he has the pictures to prove it. In fact, Kevin created The Rolling Exhibition, containing photos of other people’s reactions to his unusual circumstance of being born without legs. He travelled to more than twenty countries, documenting others’ faces of shock and curiosity, and the exhibition has been featured in museums around the world. Double Take: A Memoir offers readers a glimpse of Kevin’s life and journey around the globe, while being inspired by his optimism, determination, and empowerment.
From his childhood in Montana, to his study abroad experience in New Zealand and explorations of the Ukraine and Vienna, Kevin demonstrates his ability to make the best out of any situation. Following his parent’s example from a young age, Kevin refuses to be a victim of his circumstance. Throughout the book, he rarely feels sorry for himself. His parents, especially his father, take pride in adapting the world to meet Kevin’s needs, and continuously rise to the challenge with a little help from MacGuyver. The show debuted the same year Kevin was born, and being a big fan of the show, Kevin’s dad was inspired to make similar inventions out of household items. Each season brought new ideas, from “leathers” that Kevin wore around his waist, to the toilet seat throne and light switch extensions that hung down to Kevin’s height. It is no wonder, then, that later in life Kevin used his own mono-ski to participate in competitive ski racing or that he used a skateboard for transportation rather than a wheelchair or prosthetic legs.
Academic Advisors can successfully use this book in their work with students, especially if they teach a first-year success seminar. It is an inspiring and thought-provoking common reading, where students are reminded to consider others’ perspectives and remain open-minded. Many students would relate to the prevalent themes of the book: growing up and struggling to fit in, parental sacrifice and encouragement, learning autonomy, and exploring the way they will contribute to the world. Students may be inspired by Kevin’s journey to overcome challenges in their own lives, and figure out how to deal with problems on their own, without help from family members or friends.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson to take away from the book, for Academic Advisors and students alike, is one of empowerment. Instead of continuing to feel angry and frustrated by the stares he constantly received, Kevin turned them into one of his greatest accomplishments of the Rolling Exhibition. He writes that the stares had been a burden that he had to accept with a grin. It was freeing for Kevin to find a way to use those stares for his own good. Advisors can ask themselves, and discuss with their students, how to take back control of challenges in their lives and if there is any way to benefit from these frustrations.
Reading Double Take: A Memoir by Kevin Michael Connolly is like sitting down with a friend over coffee and listening to his adventures. The conversation is inspirational and has many valuable lessons that remain long after the meeting is over.
Double Take: A Memoir
. (2009). Book by Kevin Michael Connolly. Review by Tracy Nowak. New York, NY: Harper Collins. 227 pp., $14.99, (Paperback), ISBN 978-0-06-179152-9