One morning, Tophs, Taylor Harris's round-cheeked, lively 22-month-old, wakes up listless and unresponsive. At the hospital, her maternal instincts are confirmed: something is wrong with her boy, and Taylor's life will never be the same. With every question the doctors answer about Tophs's increasingly troubling symptoms, more arise, and Taylor dives into the search for a diagnosis.
[An] affecting, razor-sharp debut ... This Boy We Made blows up the stale formulas of trauma memoir, implicating us in Harris’s most intimate and terrifying moments, and those of her family, with candor and cool precision. Her book also serves as an allegory of sorts: a Black woman grapples with enduring racial disparities in health practices and outcomes, the stark divides both in and out of clinical settings ... Harris toggles between Tophs’s story and her own; each enriches the other ... Harris deftly draws a line between a Before and an After — when she grasps there’s something wrong with her son, she reconsiders earlier episodes ... The book also plumbs a less visible kind of malady: the unique obstacles African Americans confront in our medical infrastructure ... This Boy We Made not only reflects broader social reckonings, it is itself a reckoning, illuminating inequities entrenched not only within our justice system, but also within seemingly neutral institutions, such as health care. Mostly, it’s a scrupulous, moving read that deserves a wide audience, one inspired to push for change in a plethora of arenas.
At times, the memoir is a cascade of late-night and early-morning scares ... Throughout, Harris’s prose hugs readers like lifelong confidants, transforming them into inner-circle champions of her graceful fight. She examines her disquieting experience of feeling stuck en route to some elusive destination ... Interwoven is Harris’s acute understanding of how science and genetics can unlock a vital medical finding as surely as they can seem confounding along the way ... The memoir dedicates important space to the numbing bureaucracy that often accompanies medical visits, particularly as seen through the eyes of a Black woman in the South ... Even amid such painful episodes, Harris is generous with relaying mirthful ones ... Harris also brings humor to bear in moments of great adversity ... how deft Harris is in building Tophs’s multidimensional story.
With beautiful sentences and thoughtful descriptions, Harris has built a story of...intersections. She has woven together each shimmering strand: of the depth of her faith and her commitment to family; her struggles with mental health and her triumphs as a mother and as a professional; the mystery of her son’s body and her own and the relevance of their race. She brings these truths together, holding the incongruities and uncertainties in the palm of her hand, helping us all to see. There are parts of her story I can share, and there are parts I can only observe and receive with empathy, and all of them are important additions to any conversation around parenting, race, disability, and health care. Despite all their difficulties, all the hard truths explored, This Boy We Made is a story of hope and the infinitely beautiful possibilities of humanity.