H.T. Manogue's Gallery of Divergent Thoughts
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by: April Sullivan
for Reader Views
November 11, 2010
“Living Behind the Beauty Shop” starts with a Foreword and a Preface that remind you this book is more than just a novel, it is a philosophical book that guides you toward understanding consciousness, humanity, and diversity. I like that. As I read the book, I kept reminding myself of the words set out at the beginning by the editor, Yvonne Perry, and author H.T. Manogue. Manogue says, “As you get into the story you may tune these mystical vibrations to your frequency or you may choose not to. Either way, you can enjoy the world of the Russell family and relate to it in some form of genius.” This was a great way to start a book that stretches your imagination and pushes you to think beyond what you think you already know.
This book tells the story of the Russell’s, an extended family in Nashville. Warren and Claire run Perception Farms, an innovative approach to homelessness through a community setting. Their daughter Cindy and her partner Margie decide to have a baby and ask long-time friend Alan to be the father. Their son is Mase, the
main character in the story who chooses to be born with Down Syndrome and provides a connection to the parallel universe of Ofu.
The story of Ofu is woven in and out of the narrative in a gentle way, so as not to bog down the reader with too much heavy consciousness material, but gets the point across very understandably. Mase uses poetry and art to express himself about Ofu to his family and Manogue includes original art and poetry in the
book in a thoughtful way. The author is as much a poet and thinker as he is a novelist. He combines all parts with equal importance.
As someone who works in the non-profit sector with artists with disabilities, I appreciate Manogue’s concepts and ideas. His thoughts on people with Down Syndrome choosing their earthly form as it connects them to the otherworld is a great turnabout on the way people normally think about people with disabilities. I attended a Homeless Resource Fair recently and imagined what it would have been like if a place like Perception Farms existed and all of these people had the chance to show their strengths in a community setting of that
“Living Behind the Beauty Shop” is not your typical novel. But why should it be? We all need to move beyond the typical and let our dreams take us to what is waiting for us, if only we could let ourselves be free.
March 18, 2011
This novel weaves not just characters, but universes, in a tale that opens the reader's eyes to another way of seeing. The title itself is a metaphor.
We follow the life of protagonist, Mase, who has Down Syndrome, and his non-traditional family, who handle the challenges they face in surprising, but productive ways. Much of Mase's ability to bridge two universes is expressed through poetry and drawings with the help of his alter-ego, Alfie.
Author H.T. Manogue writes: "Choices create our experiences, but beliefs and perceptions as well as the influences surrounding those beliefs change each experience." The epiphanal moments that open each character's heart to embrace their personal truth, invite the reader to view the world through the eyes of someone they may never have met before.
We watch Mase not only navigate these separate universes, but create a portal through his poetry and art, allowing those closest to him to share his experiences. This all happens in a setting that evolves into a sustainable community where nothing that can be used is thrown away and no one is cast out.
Because the hero, Mase, has DS, much of the magic of this tale is in how this physical manifestion, once thought to be eveidence of mental disability, may very well be evidence of an advanced thought process.
2012 Inspirational Award Winner