by Hirotada Ototake
This memoir is easy to very read, but equally thought-provoking, and it was a best seller in Japan. It covers the childhood and young adulthood of Hirotada "Oto" Ototake, who, in a country obsessed with conformity, has always stood out--dramatically: he was born with tetra-amelia, a congenital condition leaving him without arms or legs.
Both Ototake and his parents are determined to give him as average a life as possible, and the story of their efforts--and successes--are what make this tale so extraordinary.
Enrolled at a mainstream school with no specific facilities for disabled students, Ototake confronts life with an almost relentless optimism. He joins the basketball team, partakes in numerous clubs and leadership positions, and implicitly demands, through his utter self-confidence and lack of self-consciousness, that his teachers and peers treat him like any other.
Throughout, Ototake narrates these challenges and triumphs in a tone that is almost childlike in its enthusiasm, but the reader should not be fooled into believing that this renders his story a simple one.
Ototake eventually enrolls at at Waseda University where he becomes an activist in support of maintaining "barrier free" environments across the country. It is here that he realizes the rather complex moral of his memoir, and what makes it so important politically for people, disabled and able alike, to read: that his "disability" is a gift that allowing him to positively impact the world by making it a more accessible place for all, and that rather than a symbol of lack, his body is actually a catalyst for this rare and powerful ability.
Tracy Slater, PhD