Book Club: Lancaster man triumphs against the odds

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When Chris Stewart sent me a copy of his autobiography, it arrived with a packet of tissues.

“The book is not an easy read so the tissues might come in handy,” said Chris, 60, who has lived in Lancaster for the last 30 years.

Chris’ book, “A bird in a cage and a tin of paint” describes his difficult childhood.

As a youngster growing up in Salford, he struggled with being an undiagnosed dyslexic learner while his mother had a mental illness.

Physical and mental abuse was meted out by Chris’ mum on a regular basis.

And at school, as his dyslexia went undiagnosed, he struggled with reading, writing and other aspects associated with this form of word blindness.

To say Chris had a difficult childhood would be putting it mildly and there were points in the book where I almost needed to reach for those tissues.

But not quite...because although this story is harrowing, it’s ultimately a tale of triumph over adversity.

There is no doubt that Chris’ past has left its 
mark.

“It took me nearly 50 years to come to terms with my past and be able to write my story” he said.

“This story is written just to explain, from my point of view, how my disability affected me in those dark days of closeted education and learning, in days well before whistle blowing on family cruelty.

“It’s my therapy but I do need to share it with others. Who knows, it may help others, please God.”

“A bird in a cage...” has had excellent reviews on Amazon, reaching number one in the disability chart. This is despite Chris’ insistence that there was no professional editing of his story.

“Within the book world I have had many authors, professionals and writers suggest that I put it into proper English,” he said.

“They suggested that instead of selling hundreds as it is, working the grammar correctly will enable it to sell thousands.

“The disability world people who have read it have a more pragmatic view with statements such as, ‘Let the world know how your disability affects you’, helping me make the correct decision.”

Chris is not the only one who thinks he made the right decision.

Young Offenders Prisons in the North West of England are using the book to help disaffected young people who have low self-esteem and dyslexia.

“It is hoped that the book will enable the young offenders to re-look at themselves and their 
abilities, and not the abuse or their disabilities,” he said.

Copies are also going into universities that run Special Educational Needs courses as part of their teacher training degrees.

“It’s all about getting the message out there,” addedChris, who also insisted the book use an innovative typeface that is proving easier for dyslexic people to read.

Today Chris is a successful tutor in a further education college working with people who have profound disabilities. He is also a qualified teacher and nurse.

In his personal life, he is “loved every day by Rachel”.

Thank you Chris for sharing your book with me. It’s a very humbling but uplifting story which is helping shed light on dyslexia and the problems associated with it across the globe.

For copies of “A bird in a cage and a tin of paint”, go to http://www.mcqueenpublishing.co.uk/ourbook
-shop/. An e-version is available from Amazon.