Rachel in the World

A Memoir
Author: Jane Bernstein
A mother's attempt to know the heart and mind of a disabled daughter growing into adulthood
Paper – $16.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 02/22/2010
Cloth: 01/01/2007
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

What happens when love is no longer enough? Jane Bernstein thought that learning to accept her daughter’s disabilities meant her struggles were over. But as Rachel grew up and needed more than a parent’s devotion, both mother and daughter were confronted with formidable obstacles. Rachel in the World, which begins in Rachel’s fifth year and ends when she turns twenty two, tells of their barriers and successes with the same honesty and humor that made Loving Rachel, Bernstein’s first memoir, a classic. Bernstein's linked narratives center on family issues, social services, experiences with caregivers, and Rachel herself--difficult, charming, hard to fathom, eager for her own independence. Bernstein invites the reader to share the frustrations and unexpected pleasures of finding a place for her daughter, first in her family, and then in the world.

About the Author

Jane Bernstein, a professor of English and creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University, is the author of Loving Rachel: A Family's Journey from Grief; Bereft--A Sister's Story; and other books.

Also by this author

Loving Rachel cover


"Bernstein details the agonizing process of finding a home and occupation for Rachel. The book makes it clear that we, as a society, are not set up to help people like her or their families, particularly as money for social services continues to dwindle. But what gives the book strength is Bernstein's ability to write as expressively about the times when she herself was nearing madness as about her deep love for her daughter."--Washington Post

"I am not entirely sure how someone who is not raising a mentally retarded child will take this book. But as a parent who is, I am grateful for this tough, honest . . . account. It's a book I have been looking for, a road map for the years ahead."--Michael Berryhill, Houston Chronicle

"Bernstein follows her earlier memoir, Loving Rachel (1988), with an account of the challenges of raising a disabled child to full adulthood. . . . This is a candid and moving look at the challenges faced by the disabled and their families."--Booklist

"A refreshingly unsentimental, wrenchingly candid sequel to the author’s previous memoir about her developmentally challenged daughter, Loving Rachel (1988). . . . A bracing testimony--not at all self-flattering--to parental love and advocacy."--Kirkus Reviews

"This sequel to Bernstein's Loving Rachel: A Family's Journey from Grief provides a rare, honest, even gritty glimpse into the life of a young person with the dual diagnosis of mental retardation and mental illness. . . . An unsentimental yet inspiring story of unshakable mother love."--Library Journal

"Bernstein's account is unflinchingly candid and often wrenching. And while her deep love for Rachel is never in doubt, the relentless weight of caring for her is painful even at this remove. But it is this very quality that makes this book so important."--Shelf Awareness

"In describing the frustrations of being an advocate in a system that is illogical and ever changing, the author offers a painfully detailed account that powerfully explains the seething anger anyone would feel trying to navigate the Byzantine paths of public funding for mentally retarded citizens. It is against this backdrop that Bernstein searches for a place that Rachel can receive the kind of care she needs and the dignity she deserves."--Jewish Book World

"Jane Bernstein is one of Pittsburgh's finest writers, and her talents are vividly displayed in Rachel in the World. The sequel to Loving Rachel, a memoir about her daughter who is visually impaired and mentally retarded, the new book recounts her struggles raising a child who is oblivious to the love of a parent. Bernstein is brutally honest throughout about the challenges of living with Rachel, conveying her frustrations, anger, fears and the occasional triumphs. And while Rachel in the World sheds light on a population that is at best undervalued, at worst ignored, Bernstein never resorts to emotional puppetry. Hers is a story that has unvarnished truth to it."--Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"One of the most extraordinary, awful, funny, candid, heart-rending, brave books about motherhood I've ever read."--Sandra Tsing Loh, Barnes & Noble Review


"Jane Bernstein's Rachel in the World is a remarkable book about tough love--about the many challenges of raising a child with special needs, and about the woeful inadequacy of terms like 'special needs.' It is a fearlessly honest book about disability and family life, in which children with disabilities are not heaven's special angels, and in which children with disabilities grow up to be adults with disabilities. It is a necessary book, in which parents of children with disabilities worry about the world of social services and group homes and uncomprehending strangers. And it is a bracing book that reminds us how tough a parent's love can be--and how the power of love can sustain us in even the toughest times."--Michael Bérubé, author of Life As We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child

"The battles and triumphs of motherhood are featured in Bernstein's compelling account of life with Rachel. The honesty is apparent, as is the love, the pain, the hope-always the hope."--Eva Feder Kittay, author of Love's Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency