This book has its origins in an e-mail from an extraordinary literary agent, Andrew Blauner. It was May 2001, and the now-defunct magazine Yahoo! Internet Life had just published an article about LPA Online, the Web site of Little People of America, which I have edited since 1998. Andrew took note of my name, tracked me down, and asked if I had ever considered writing a book about dwarfism. For conceiving of Little People even before I had, and for tirelessly encouraging me, Andrew has my gratitude and thanks, and then some.
Stephanie Tade, the executive editor of Rodale Books Group, conveyed a sense of excitement that stayed with me throughout the year-long process of research and writing. Chris Potash, who edited the manuscript, pushed me constantly, and passionately, to let Becky’s voice be heard and to make the narrative more accessible. Joanna Williams designed the striking cover, and Sarah Lee cleared photo permissions. Sue Ducharme expertly handled the copyediting.
Since 1991 my professional home has been the Boston Phoenix. I value the support that publisher Stephen Mindich and president Barry Morris have given me over the years. Phoenix editor Peter Kadzis deserves special mention for his friendship and enthusiasm for this project.
My friends Susan Ryan-Vollmar, the Phoenix news editor, and Ruth Ricker, a past president of Little People of America, read the manuscript and offered valuable suggestions and counsel. Ruth was an important adviser in other ways as well, letting me borrow her collection of books about dwarfism, some of them quite rare, and suggesting people for me to interview.
Betty Adelson, an LPA parent and activist, gave generously of her time, reviewing and helping to correct some of the historical passages.
During the two years that Becky was sick, a troupe of dedicated nurses came into our home and helped take care of her. The ones who stayed with us the longest were Renée Maloney, Mary Scott Newton, Bernadette Bolling, Lynda Cedrone, June Swartz, and Mary McKenzie. They all have our grateful thanks.
Several years ago a couple with dwarfism whom I had met on the Internet, Fred and Lin Short, of Hartlepool, England, visited us in Danvers. My son, Tim, and I had a terrific time showing them the historical sights of nearby Salem. Fred later sent us a beautiful watercolor of our home that he had painted. Fred and I kept up an e-mail correspondence throughout my research for this book, with him challenging me to get beyond the superficial and confront my deepest feelings.
Tim’s sixth-grade Spanish teacher, Hartley Ferguson, put me in touch with Paul and Nancy McNulty, former residents of the Netherlands, who translated a Dutch- and German-language documentary, Dood Spoor? (“End of the Line?”), as we watched it in their Danvers home.
Linda Hughes provided me with a videotape of the novelist Armistead Maupin’s talk at the 1995 Little People of America national conference in Denver, and of an audiotape of Len Sawisch’s presentation at that same conference.
My Phoenix colleague Carolyn Clay and her husband, Doug Trees, generously allowed me the use of a spare desk in Doug’s architectural office in Hamilton, Massachusetts.
Though parts of this book were researched and written at Doug Trees’s office, in our cellar, on our upstairs landing, at Starbucks, in Borders, at Barnes & Noble, and on various road trips, my most comfortable work space was a cubicle with a window view at the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers. I thank the staff for putting up with me.
While putting together the proposal for Little People, I read a remarkable book by Michael Bérubé called Life as We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child (Pantheon, 1996), a memoir about raising a son with Down syndrome. Bérubé posits the key question that our culture asks about anyone who is different: “Is this person sufficiently similar to the people we already value?” I hope Little People is informed by at least some of the spirit that pervades Bérubé’s wise and humane book.
Our children, Timothy and Rebecca, kept me grounded during a year when equilibrium occasionally proved elusive. No father ever had two more perfect kids.
My wonderful wife, Barbara Kennedy, as she has been throughout our twenty-two years of marriage, was my best friend, my lover, my editor and collaborator, and my most sympathetic reader.