Book Review: Beauty Exposed

I recently had a chance to read a fun little book that Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area has added to their library: Beauty Exposed by Chloe Goulding.

Chloe put together the book when she was a teenager—and the sister of two adopted younger siblings with Down syndrome. It’s a self-published book, so it hasn’t gone through the editorial process of a major publisher, and you need to overlook some minor errors here and there, but overall it’s quite well done.

I love the concept: Chloe collected written recollections of siblings of people with Down syndrome to create the book. She divided it up into a few sections, mostly by age. There are stories from young children (around seven years of age), stories from pre-teens, stories from teens, and stories from adults. All of them grew up (or are growing up) with a sibling with Down syndrome, and they are all refreshingly candid in their thoughts on what that’s like.

A couple of things I really like about the book:

  • Chloe didn’t correct the spelling/grammar of the youngest kids, so most of the stories from the young siblings come across as quite authentic. (There’s one where a parent clearly helped the child write it, and that was actually my least favorite—my favorites were the ones where you could tell the child was just speaking from the heart.)
  • Although Chloe speaks glowingly of her siblings in her own story, she allows the other siblings in the book to speak realistically. Some are equally glowing, but others are honest about challenges they faced growing up as the sibling of someone with an intellectual disability. I liked that Chloe allowed them their honesty. I think siblings who read the book and who are struggling in one way or another will be glad to not feel alone that they don’t love Down syndrome all the time. Because let’s face it: Even those of us—like me—who wouldn’t take away Down syndrome even if we could have our days where we feel disheartened by something related to it—a medical struggle, a communication struggle, etc. And it’s good to know we’re not alone at those times.
  • The overall message of the book was quite positive. Even the siblings who admitted to sometimes struggling voiced their feeling that overall, they love their sibling and are glad to have them as part of their life. They acknowledged the plusses that come from growing up with someone with Down syndrome as part of your life—even while being honest about it sometimes being a mixed blessing.

My Theo isn’t quite old enough for the book yet—there’s nothing in it that a nine-year-old shouldn’t read, but he just doesn’t yet have the attention span for it. But when he is older, it is definitely one I will share with him so he can see the perspective of others who walk in his shoes and have a sibling with Down syndrome. Because I can talk for days about what it’s like to be the mother of a person with Down syndrome, but I can’t stand in Theo’s shoes and know what it’s like to be the brother—the upsides and the downsides.

My hat goes off to Chloe Goulding for putting together a much-needed book for the sometimes forgotten people in this community—the siblings!

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