Confessional and often hilarious, in Normal Sucks a neuro-diverse writer, advocate, and father meditates on his life, offering the radical message that we should stop trying to fix people and start empowering them to succeed
Jonathan Mooney blends anecdote, expertise, and memoir to present a new mode of thinking about how we live and learn—individually, uniquely, and with advantages and upshots to every type of brain and body. As a neuro-diverse kid diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD who didn't learn to read until he was twelve, the realization that that he wasn’t the problem—the system and the concept of normal were—saved Mooney’s life and fundamentally changed his outlook. Here he explores the toll that being not normal takes on kids and adults when they’re trapped in environments that label them, shame them, and tell them, even in subtle ways, that they are the problem. But, he argues, if we can reorient the ways in which we think about diversity, abilities, and disabilities, we can start a revolution.
A highly sought after public speaker, Mooney has been inspiring audiences with his story and his message for nearly two decades. Now he’s ready to share what he’s learned from parents, educators, researchers, and kids in a book that is as much a survival guide as it is a call to action. Whip-smart, insightful, and utterly inspiring—and movingly framed as a letter to his own young sons, as they work to find their ways in the world—this book will upend what we call normal and empower us all.
About the Author
Jonathan Mooney’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, HBO, NPR, ABC News, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and he continues to speak across the nation about neurological and physical diversity, inspiring those who live with differences and advocating for change. He is the author of The Short Bus and Learning Outside the Lines.
"As an accessible primer on reassessing disability and mental health, it’s invaluable, and as an exploration of what it’s like to grow up feeling different, it’s incredibly cathartic."
“Jonathan Mooney is touched by beautiful human magic. His experience and talent have given him a unique perspective and a genuine, moving appreciation of those who live outside the lines and inspiring us to question the boring conventions that restrain us. I’d follow him just about anywhere.”
—George Hodgman, author of Bettyville
"An urgent, personal and long overdue manifesto against the tyranny of normal, whatever that it is. Normal isn't the problem, it's the tyranny."
—Seth Godin, author of This is Marketing
"Unforgettable. Smart. Humane. Hilarious. I laughed out loud with every page, except for the ones that broke my heart.” Normal Sucks left me rooting not just for Mooney but for the countless readers who will be helped by this book."
—Meg Jay, PhD, author of The Defining Decade and Supernormal
"The attempt to make us conform to someone’s definition of ‘normal’ insults the exquisite mutability of the human race. In this candid, poignant, and insightful anthem to all of humanity, Mooney rejects the straitjacket of normalcy and demonstrates through the beautiful telling of his own struggle that humans thrive when we are accepted as we are."
—Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult
“Entertaining, heartfelt, and deeply considered, this book will convince you forever and for good that normal indeed sucks.”
—Emily Rapp Black, bestselling author of The Still Point of the Turning World
“Paradigm-shifting, highly enjoyable, and destined to become hugely influential, this book will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt different—and will open the minds of everyone who has not.
—Rachel Simon, New York Times Bestselling Author of Riding The Bus With My Sister and The Story of Beautiful Girl
“Jonathan Mooney’s Normal Sucks is all at once real, raw, revelatory, profound, and deeply funny.”. Mooney's narrative stands as a battle cry for all of us who've struggled with fitting in (and who hasn't?), affirming that not only is it okay to be different, there's actually an incredible strength and power in the very things that make us feel like outsiders. It's a message of vital importance at a time when the pressure on young people to fit in is arguably worse than it's ever been. NORMAL SUCKS offers genuine insights into how we can develop the skills we need to find wholeness in ourselves and authentic connections in this increasingly disparate and fractured world.”
—Nic Sheff, author of Tweak, the basis for the major motion picture Beautiful Boy
“This book will make you think. Well researched and written in an accessible and engaging style, Mooney has provided his readers with an interesting and creative guide that will compel us to re-think the purpose of education and how we go approach it. The pressure kids experience to be normal and to experience what we conventionally regard as success, is taking a toll on children throughout the country. Mooney shows us that it need not be this way. For those who are ready to think outside the box, and who are ready to make the changes needed to create learning opportunities that make it possible for children to thrive, this book will be an invaluable resource and a breath of fresh air.”
—Pedro A. Noguera, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Education, Faculty Director, Center for the Transformation of Schools
“Jonathan Mooney writes an irreverent, funny, and deeply moving…Addressing his own children, Mooney transforms complex ideas from the likes of Michel Foucault into understandable readable moments.”
—Lennard Davis, author of Beginning with Disability
"This book will not only make you OK with all of your unique quirks and so-called ‘weird’ preoccupations but see them in a new and empowering light.”
—Scott Barry Kaufman, Columbia University and co-author of Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind
“On every page reasons to shout out for joy, ‘Normal, stand down. Long live what's real!’” Bless you, Mr. Mooney.”
—Edward M. Hallowell M.D., author of Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder and other books
“If you’ve ever questioned who made the rules and why do we have to follow them, this book is for you. With wit, empathy, and defiance, Jonathan Mooney delivers a powerful message from the frontlines of the inclusion revolution.”
—Liz Benjamin writer and producer whose credits include Man in the High Castle and Thirteen Reasons Why
“Come out, be proud, and fight against society’s view that we are abnormal. This book teaches through history and personal story how to burst into the light with strength gained through resistance.”
—Judith E. Heumann, International Disability Rights Advocate
“Jonathan Mooney has created a new genre here, where his unflinching recollections propel our collective humanity.”
—Maryanne Wolf, Director, Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice, UCLA, and author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
“Mooney brings…wonder and grace to the diversity of our minds, reminding us how to be in the world.”
—Howard Axelrod, author of The Point of Vanishing and The Stars in Our Pockets: Getting Lost and Sometimes Found in the Digital Age
“With crackling wit, big heart, and the canniest attention to detail, Jonathan Mooney shares his story of self-definition, rewriting the faulty codes of normalcy along the way. Mooney is a guide I trust.”
—JoAnna Novak, author of I Must Have You and Noirmania
“In this wonderfully wry, deeply personal, and insightful book, Jonathan Mooney exposes how the phantom called normal that has made so many of us so miserable comes for us and how we can and should resist. The underside of normal, Mooney reveals, is the shocking history of our American eugenics movement and how close we are right now to the same logic of ridding humanity of all of us who don’t fit into the ever tightening space of normal.”
“A deft, approachable blend of personal and cultural history, Normal Sucks is suffused with sharp humor, curiosity honed as a survival tactic, and, perhaps most importantly, a father’s profound tenderness. It understands that ‘normal is a statistical fiction,’ but that combating its systemic consequences is ‘what we owe each other,’ an individual and communal project of the upmost urgency for those who we love, and all who will follow us.”
—Molly McCully Brown
“Jonathan Mooney combines personal narrative, history, and critical theory to expose the tyranny of normalcy and its perverse impact on the lives of people with disabilities and other diverse identities. With seriousness and humor Mooney makes the case for confronting ableist assumptions, and creating a world in which the gifts of all people, particularly children are valued. This is a must read for educators, parents policy makers, and all those who seek to create a more just and equitable society. I loved this book!”
“Jonathans compelling book, Normal Sucks, takes readers on a journey that combines personal memoir, critical theory, and scientific history and exposes them to the fallacy of what constitutes normal. Using both warm humor and sharp social critique, Jonathan liberates the reader from the death grip of normalcy, that keeps people them from loving their uniqueness and embracing the diversity of others. This book is a refreshing reminder of the power of embracing our own authenticity and the need to enter into beloved community that celebrates the value and diversity of others. This book is destined to start a revolutions and is a must read for parents, educators, policy makers, and funders.
—Roberto Rivera, Artist, Educator, Change Agent
"Thought-provoking. . . .[Mooney] provides an extensive history of how the idea of normal evolved, giving readers an eye-opening look at the standards we are often forced to live with, whether we know it or not. . . A new, engaging, and informative perspective that redefines what "normal" should really mean."
"Mooney expertly deconstructs normal in this intelligent examination that will shatter preconceived notions."