Between the Lines: Every Least Sparrow

Sep 1, 2017

Carolyn Walker
Credit Benjamin James Taylor / Garn Press

When her newborn daughter was placed in her arms, Carolyn Walker sensed right away that something was wrong. But in the next instant Walker found that she had what it took to deal with whatever "it" was. She was in love with little Jennifer. The years ahead would not be easy but they would be worthwhile. Walker is the author of Every Least Sparrow (Garn Press, 2017), a memoir about her daughter, who has Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome.


“When Jennifer was diagnosed, it was a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms,” Walker says. “It’s a conglomeration of facial features: jointless thumbs, various body problems, and knee problems. Some children have heart or spinal problems and varying degrees of mental retardation. Some are profoundly disabled while others are less so. My daughter falls into the middle there.”

Walker says she tapped into her Christian faith for the strength to cope with the challenge of her daughter’s disabilities. With a lifetime of dealing with various medical issues, she and her husband took one step at a time, each in their own way.

Credit Garn Press

“I found out only about a year ago, on Facebook, what causes Rubinstein-Taybi,” Walker says. “Apparently, there are two types. It has something to do with a binding protein. But, you know, at this point in my life, it just doesn’t matter to me. Jennifer is such a delightful person. In many ways, she’s sort of an ideal in my mind of how people should be because she doesn’t have any prejudices. She doesn’t care what color you are, what gender you are, how old you are. None of that matters to her.”

Jennifer’s story is not just about medical challenges. It's also the evolution of a life: her's and those of the people around her. As she grows up, Jennifer discovers romantic love. She learns how to become independent and hold down a job. And she learns about friendship. Her family, including a brother with Asperger’s, and a sister, learn to let go as Jennifer eventually moves to the group home where she lives today.

Carolyn Walker is a memoirist, essayist, poet, and creative writing instructor. She worked for 25 years as a journalist. Her work has appeared in The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, Hunger Mountain, The Writer’s Chronicle, Gravity Pulls You In: Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, and many other publications.

Walker’s essay about her son, “Christian Becomes a Blur,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and reprinted in the 50th anniversary edition of Crazyhorse. In 2013, she was made a Kresge Fellow in the Literary Arts by the Kresge Foundation.

Listen to WMUK's Between the Lines every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m.