When she was in high school, author Sheila Allee discovered that her father had a brother she didn’t know existed. Melrose Allee, nicknamed Pie, was born with profound intellectual disabilities. Once Allee’s father “Dub,” who had taken much of the burden for Melrose’s care, left home in 1937, his parents placed Melrose in Austin State School. Even though her father was angry with his parents and swore to get his brother out, he never did, and Melrose eventually became an unmentioned subject.
Sheila could not understand how her family could have institutionalized her uncle in the first place and even worse, how they could have left him for years, unvisited. When she moved to Austin as an adult, she set about finding Melrose, eventually locating him in Travis State School in 1991.
This short book is the touching story of Allee’s own self-discovery through the agency of her impaired uncle. It is also the story of her discovery of the profoundly disturbing beliefs and practices surrounding the mentally handicapped that were practiced in this country in the first half of the 20th century.
In the interests of full disclosure, I know Ms. Allee, and I received a copy of her book in return for an honest review.