Savarese, Ralph James

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Savarese, Ralph James


Married: wife's name Emily; children: DJ. Education: Wesleyan University, Middleton, CT, B.A.; University of Florida, M.F.A., Ph.D.


Home— Grinnell, IA. Office— Department of English, Grinnell College, Mears Cottage, Grinnell, IA 50112-1690. E-mail— [email protected].


Writer and poet. Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA, lecturer.


Hennig Cohen Prize, Herman Melville Society, 2003, for outstanding contribution to Melville scholarship; Irene Glascock National Intercollegiate Poetry Competition cowinner.


Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption, Other Press (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of poetry, translations, and nonfiction to periodicals, including Another Chicago Magazine, American Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cream City Review, Edge City Review, Flyway, Graham House Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, New York Times, Poetry International, Poet Lore, Poetry Motel, Poets against the War, Poker, Seneca Review, Sewanee Review, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Southwest Review, and London Guardian. Contributor of reviews to periodicals, including A/B, American Book Review, Disability Studies Quarterly, Leviathan, Politics & Culture, and Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism. Contributor of opinion pieces to periodicals, including Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Atlanta Constitution Journal, Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Cincinnati Post, and Gainesville Sun.


Ralph James Savarese is a writer and poet based in Iowa. Savarese lectures at Grinnell College across a range of topics, including American literature, creative writing, modern poetry, nonfiction prose, and disability studies. Before obtaining his Ph.D., Savarese was named cowinner of the Irene Glascock National Intercollegiate Poetry Competition. In 2003, he also won the Hennig Cohen Prize from the Herman Melville Society for his outstanding contribution to Melville scholarship. Savarese contributes widely to a number of periodicals, including the American Poetry Review, New England Review, New York Times, Southwest Review, Disability Studies Quarterly, Leviathan, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Atlanta Constitution Journal, and the London Guardian.

In 2007, Savarese published a memoir called Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption. In it he tells the story of his adopted son, DJ, and the struggles and achievements they as a family have made with DJ's autism. When DJ was adopted at the age of six, he could not communicate and was not toilet trained. Savarese and his wife, Emily, who works to integrate special-needs children into mainstream schools, began using the Facilitated Communication (FC) technique to teach DJ to communicate through a computer. Although the method has many critics, it allowed DJ to communicate effectively for the first time. Through it Savarese learned of DJ's abuse in the foster-care system and his feelings of parental abandonment. The family persevered and less than a decade later, DJ had entered the public school system and was a top-scoring student in his classes. In an interview on the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation Web site, when asked why he and his wife chose to adopt an abused, autistic child when they were capable of having their own children, Savarese responded: "The question suggests that it was unreasonable—imprudent, unwise, excessive, even crazy—to take on such a ‘burden.’ My book makes an argument for a more reasonable society; by that I mean more responsive to those in need, unwilling to accept glaring inequality and injustice, less focused on personal comfort or inane entertainment. I'm sounding preachy, I know. But I'm passionate about making a difference."

Reviews for Savarese's memoir were mostly positive. A contributor to SciTech Book News said the "touching account … will be of interest to" doctors, therapists, academicians, and family members "working with nonverbal individuals." Corey Seeman, writing in Library Journal, thought that Savarese could have better explained how parents and teachers could use the FC method but conceded that "readers will find the elements documenting the foster care system worthwhile." A contributor to the Midwest Book Review agreed that those "interested in autism will want to learn from this" book. A contributor to Publishers Weekly concluded that "Savarese writes with passion and humor," and by including examples of DJ's writing in the memoir, "readers get a sense of his remarkable growth" throughout this "moving account."



Savarese, Ralph James,Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption, Other Press (New York, NY), 2007.


Library Journal, March 1, 2007, Corey Seeman, review of Reasonable People, p. 96.

Midwest Book Review, June, 2007, review of Reasonable People.

Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2007, review of Reasonable People, p. 49.

SciTech Book News, September, 2007, review of Reasonable People.


Grinnell College, Department of English Web site, (November 6, 2007), author profile.

Huffington Post, (November 6, 2007), author profile.

Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation Web site, (November 6, 2007), author profile.

Ralph James Savarese Home Page, (November 6, 2007), author biography.

Respect Diversity Foundation Web site, (November 6, 2007), author profile.

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Savarese, Ralph James

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