Endorsements from the Disability Community


"I was profoundly impacted by this book. The relationships it showed—with partners, friends, family, and professionals—have rarely been portrayed as honestly and beautifully as they are here. As a person with a disability and an advocate, I think the world will be a better place if everyone reads The Story of Beautiful Girl."

Geri Jewell
TV and film actress in "The Facts of Life", "The Young and The Restless," "Deadwood," etc.; disabilityadvocate

"The Story of Beautiful Girl delivers a tale that touches the heart while making you more aware of a reality that has been hidden for too long. It is a textured story that mentally involves you because it is real and destined to hold up over time. It is a wonderful book."

Bill Baldini
Reporter for NBC-10 News, Philadelphia whose expose on Pennhurst State School, "Suffer The Little Children," was the first to put the national spotlight on public institutions, helping lead to their demise

"Once in a generation, a novel may capture the essence of a major social transformation. The Story of Beautiful Girl is that novel. With great subtlety and finesse, this exquisite tale of one couple's love and growth embodies and illustrates a massive civil rights achievement – perhaps the most successful social change of the baby boomer generation."

James W. Conroy, Ph.D.
Expert who has appeared on NPR and in the TV program "Ghost Adventures"; Co-President of the Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance; Principal Investigator,Pennhurst Longitudinal Study (major study on transitioning out of institutions)

"Vivid, engaging, and deeply human, The Story of Beautiful Girl illustrates the powerful impact that race, language, gender, place, and disability have on our lives. As in "real life," poignant moments of misunderstanding and stigma, and oppression and exclusion, exist side-by-side with experiences of connection, empowerment, and liberation. This imaginative work seeks tangible ends: social justice, inclusive community, and love. A richly important book."

Susan Burch
Co-author of Unspeakable: The Story of Junius Wilson; editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of American Disability History

"In The Story of Beautiful Girl, Rachel Simon delivers complex, detailed characters, and taps into the courage, resiliency, and activism of those who experienced institutionalization. By embedding a sweeping story of loss and love in the broader context of institutionalization, deinstitutionalization and the self-advocacy movement, Beautiful Girl ensures that its readers come away not only emotionally touched, but more aware of the history of disability, the challenges faced by people with disabilities, the complexity of people with disabilities, and the philosophies of self-determination and civil rights.A powerful story and a terrific resource for teaching about disability."

Allison C. Carey, Ph.D.
Author, On the Margins of Citizenship: Civil Rights and Intellectual Disability in 20th Century America; Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Shippensburg University; and Board Member for the Society for Disability Studies

"When you read The Story of Beautiful Girl, you will never forget it! As I read, I kept thinking, "This book should win a Pulitzer Prize." You will be immediately caught up in the story of a woman and a man whose disabilities would seem to keep them isolated from the rest of the world but who prove they have abilities far beyond what is apparent at first. The impact these two people and their child have on those around them is just as powerful as the impact others have on them.You will be grateful that you found The Story of Beautiful Girl,and you will tell everyone you know about it. "

Mary McHugh
Author of Special Siblings: Growing Up with Someone with a Disability

"I wish everyone could read Beautiful Girl. I would like to live in a world where teachers, neighbors, parents and community leaders understood – no, felt -- the human reality it uncovers. Read The Story of Beautiful Girl to open your mind and your heart."

Sue Swenson
parent of a son with developmental disabilities; former US Commissioner For Developmental Disabilities; former CEO of The Arc US;

"Beautiful Girl is fiction, but rings true for this reader. How the institution is described, the kindness of strangers, the shame families used to feel, and the discovery by a new generation are all recognizable in people I have known over the decades. I loved this book."

Steve Eidelman
H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership, University of Delaware; former Executive Director, The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation; former Executive Director of The Arc of the United States

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is a page-turner with a deep soul and purpose. A lyrically written, deeply resonating love story, tale of redemption and social justice, and mystery, it speaks to the ways people with disabilities have been segregated and mistreated in this country—and comes to a soaring and very satisfying conclusion. It's a book you won't be able to put down, with characters you won't forget."

Nancy Weiss
Director, National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, University of Delaware

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is a testimony to power of the deepest of human needs, that of discovering both who and whose we are, on our own terms. It is about three journeys to find new identities, those of Lynnie and Homan, but also the entire service and support system for people who were too quickly institutionalized because of assumptions about their being less than human. It is also about a number of other journeys, including my own, whose career began as a chaplain in a place much like The School and led to the honor of walking with people and supporting them in their quests to find themselves, people they could call friends, and homes where they could love and be loved. To journey with Lynnie and Homan in this book is to be invited into the heart of what makes us all human."

The Rev. Bill Gaventa
Associate Professor
The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
New Brunswick, N.J.

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is a poignant and moving story that left an indelible mark on my heart and soul. Simon has eloquently portrayed the injustice of dehumanizing incarceration of people with disabilities; and the love, respect and courage of those who supported them in their journey toward a meaningful and independent life."

Renee Pietrangelo
CEO, American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl gives us a new and long overdue narrative about people who have lived in institutions -one that is based on their strength, courage and the power of love."

Nancy Thaler
Executive Director, National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disability Services (NASDDDS)

"This compelling novel provides a glimpse into the impact that institutions have had on the people who lived in them, their families, and our society, while beautifully illustrating what we all share: the journey to find meaning and belonging in our lives."

Margaret Nygren
Executive Director and CEO, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD)

"Reading this book through the eyes of a human services professional and an advocate for direct support professionals, I was drawn to Kate, the devoted direct support professional, and her decades-long allegiance to Lynnie. The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has developed a Code of Ethics for those who support people with disabilities in their communities. Even in 1968, Kate showed incredible skill in virtually of our ethical standards. The NADSP envisions The Story of Beautiful Girl as a training opportunity for direct support professionals. We also believe this book will be useful to high school and college students who choose to work with people with intellectual and other disabilities."

Joseph M. Macbeth
Executive Director, National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals(NADSP)

"This is not a book about disability; this is a best-selling saga where disability is but one of the components that make it a book you will never forget, filled with power, romance, evil, heroism, adventure, danger, sorrow, and struggle.I wish it were required reading in the human service field."

Lisa Burck
President, National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), Project Director The Arc of Mississippi

"Beautiful Girl is a wondrous love story with a horrific backdrop, and themes of hope, courage, friendship, and resilience. Rachel Simon casts the light on a dark period in American history that will resonate with all readers. One can't help being captivated."

Karen Flippo
Disability Educator, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts Boston

"What a beautiful book Beautiful Girl is! The multiple "voices" of Rachel's characters are brilliant, revealing unique, whole people who struggle, grow, hurt unbearably, have hope, faith, creativity, and deep resilience. A story of historic proportions, reminiscent of Alan Gurganus' Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, it is a romping good read which shows us the possibilities of a world that values humanity’s variations- a world where each human being can grow to his or her fullest potential. Rachel is on a mission and her words are her tools. Long may she write!"

Joy E Weeber, Ph.D.
Disability Counselor Educator

"The Story of Beautiful Girl shows a great example of self-determination! The story also proves the importance being a self-advocate."

Julie Petty
National Self-Advocate Leader

"A compelling and timely story that underscores the importance of self determination and true inclusion."

Michael Brogioli, Executive Director, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities


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Fantastic Praise from Booksellers


"Wow! The Story of Beautiful Girl is a story starting in 1968 and a couple that have escaped from a state hospital long enough for her to have her child in freedom and put her in the arms of a widowed school teacher, the one person that willing to sacrifice everything to give the child a life and a chance. The Story of Beautiful Girl is a story told with understanding, insight, compassion and filled with the grace of human kindness. This novel will get into the deep recesses of your mind and linger in your heart long after the last page is turned. I loved this book―thank you!"

Books Inc. (San Francisco, CA)

"The beauty of a great novel is a wonderful story well told, populated by interesting, richly imagined characters that leave the reader entertained, deeply moved, understanding more about the world, and maybe a little bit changed. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon delivers on all levels. Seeing the world through the eyes of Homan and Lynnie was a profound experience. Seeing how we treated people with differences in the not too distant past was a horrifying reminder of how far we've come, yet it was also an education in how far we still have to go in respecting and embracing differences."

Tattered Cover (Denver, CO)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is gorgeous. Rachel Simon did a fabulous job developing each of the characters. I feel that I know them all personally. I am haunted and yet fascinated by the scenes at the institution and of course I fell in love with Lynnie, the beautiful child whose sister never forgot her―even when their parents turned away. Martha, who gave up everything to protect and raise Lynnie's baby is a true hero. Homan, the deaf and very bright man who never gave up on finding Lynnie, moved right into my heart. This is a book that will be a pleasure to sell. I think book clubs will adopt it. There's so much to talk about here. Through fiction, Rachel Simon has shown us the truth about what was done to too many people for far too long. Thank you for sending me this treasure."

Book Passage (Corte Madera, CA)

"Simon perfectly captures the tapestry of life through her well-crafted story and characters—the loved and the despised. It leaves you thinking about the course of your own actions and the impact they may have on others."

University of Minnesota Bookstores (Minneapolis, MN)

"Rachel Simon has created a handful of amazing characters and has brought them to life in what should be THE praised novel of Spring 2011.The style she chose to write The Story of Beautiful Girl flows smoothly from chapter to chapter. Each of the main characters develops before your eyes and become part of you. You experience the gamut of emotions as the lives of Lynnie, Homan, Martha and Julia are shared. You do feel special, as if this wonderful tale of amazing people is being shared with you by a close friend. Simon's is that friend and she tells her story in glorious words. What Simon has created is a beautiful story of a group of truly beautiful people."

Barnes & Noble (Vernon Hills, IL)

"I'm loving Rachel Simon's book―all I want to do is read about Buddy, Lynnie and Martha. I haven't loved a story with multiple perspectives this much since The Girls."

Anderson's Bookshops (Naperville, IL)

"I thought the characters' 'voices' were wonderful. I was captivated and read it through in one sitting!"

Partner's Books (Holt, MI)

"Let me tell you about this book. I ran home from the bookstore every night Christmas week to get back into the world Rachel Simon created in The Story of Beautiful Girl. Lynnie and Homan escaping from the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded with Lynnie's infant seeking shelter from the storm is a powerful beginning. From the first page the reader is wrapped up on the lives of Lynnie, who has difficulty speaking, Homan, who is deaf, Martha, the widow who takes them in and the infant Julia. It is a story of beautiful love across decades and along the way we come to face the inhumane way we have treated people who are different. Loved this novel."

That Bookstore in Blytheville (Blytheville, AR)

"I loved the book. The contrast between the brutality with which the disabled characters were treated and the tenderness they displayed toward each other made this one of the most memorable novels I've ever read. And what a wonderful character Martha is; a tribute to all teachers who invest in their students and can reap the rewards."

Women & Children First (Chicago, IL)

"Rachel Simon reveals the terrible history of institutionalizing the disabled by telling a story so compelling and beautiful, so heart-breaking yet also heartening, you will not be able to turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens next."

Gibson's Bookstore (Concord, NH)

"Rachel Simon's The Story of Beautiful Girl is an intricate and expansive novel that explores what it is that truly makes us human. Overflowing with compassion and populated by one unforgettable character after another, Beautiful Girl should be a huge hit with reading groups everywhere."

Next Chapter Bookshop (Mequon, WI)

"I enjoyed the book...having worked as an aide in an Easter Seals classroom many years ago, I had somewhat of an idea about how hard it is to diagnose some things, and how easy it is for people to miss signs of hidden abilities. Maybe there will be another time. Thanks for the book, I appreciated the good read."

Boswell Books (Milwaukee, WI)

"I read the book, and have to tell you I was really impressed. I think that this is really going to do well, especially with book clubs."

Newberry Library Bookstore (Chicago, IL)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is written with heart and knowledge of people with disabilities. The character development and description was exceptional. Also, I appreciated the research on institutions."

Barnes & Noble (Easton, PA)

"Her easy writing style and her sympathetic characters sucked me into their world and I cannot put it down. I am convinced that this book will be her first major bestseller. Mark my words."

Partners (Holt, MI)

"Loved the book and am looking forward to selling it to my customers!"

Watermark Books & Café (Wichita, KS)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl was absolutely fabulous. Not very often do I go to bed late reading a book, then can't wait until the early morning to pick it up again, and then make my way through the day until I can come home to finish it. Rachel Simon has woven her five characters, Lynnie, Homan, Martha, Kate, and Julia, together into an astonishing story that starts in darkness and evolves into the light, with a high sense of dread, of shock, and a sense of the unknown. She writes it in high tension, from 1968 to the present and one really cares about the outcome of each one of the five involved. I loved her sense of compassion and understanding for each one. And the happy ending makes one believe in humanity once again! Thank you for sharing such a jewel with me―and I can't wait to share it with my customers in early May."

The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, (Winnetka, IL)

"I loved this, found it very hard to put down. It is such a lovely story with great characters and also touches on an area that people often avoid, the disabled and their struggles. I think you have a bestseller on your plate here―this seems to me that it will have legs to hang on for a long time."

Follett Higher Education (Oak Brook, IL)

"A touching story of goodness triumphing over evil, of wrongs made right, of characters with character. I remember the existence of 'the' institutions. Well portrayed."

Barnes & Noble (Annapolis, MD)

"In an era of acceptance, The Story of Beautiful Girl gives us a window onto a scene not too far in our past. Three characters never share a complete sentence, but their lives are tangled together for four decades. Written so solidly, any reader will want a highlighter on hand for those perfect sentences."

Tattered Cover (Denver, CO)

"I think you will see tons of bookclubs picking The Story of the Beautiful Girl for the wealth of discussion it will spur. It is not often we get the chance to truly explore the lives of people who are developmentally disabled and Rachel allows us that opportunity to step into the shoes of another human being, to see things from their perspective."

Bookworm of Edwards (Edwards, CO)

"Rachel Simon has written a lovely novel."

Book Passage (Corte Madera, CA)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl paints a landscape on which the journey of three adults and a baby girl unfolds and expands over a 40 year period. Lynnie is the true hero of this novel. With her feeble mind as her guide, she finds her way through the many atrocities that befalls her and does so with grace and honor. I thoroughly enjoyed this book."

The Reader's Loft (Green Bay, WI)

"I was quite impressed with The Story of Beautiful Girl, both as a novel and as a document of casual brutality of the not too distant past. Honestly, it is not the kind of book I normally read, but I couldn't put it down. Very compelling."

Books Inc. (San Francisco, CA)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is a lovely, quiet novel in which a whole world changes. There are no terrorist attacks, deadly plagues, or earthquakes. Just constancy, integrity, helping hands and yes a whole lotta love-but not the sappy kind. Perfect for anyone who likes redemption."

University Book Store, Inc. (Seattle, WA)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl...is so much more than that. It has all the elements of any well crafted novel, but also opens a porthole into the minds and hearts of people with varying intellectual disabilities and the institutions in this country that held them hostage. Still, a sweet and hopeful work."

Baker Books (N. Dartmouth, MA)

"Rachel Simon has a unique talent for giving voices to the voiceless and the ignored. In her nonfiction book club favorite, Riding the Bus With My Sister, she gave eye-opening insights into the world of the developmentally disabled. Now in her gorgeous new novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl, she tells the story of Homan, a deaf African-American who is institutionalized because of his inability to communicate. In the brutal setting of the institution, he meets and falls in love with Beautiful Girl, the only one who makes the effort to understand him. You'll cry, you'll cheer, you'll want to tell everyone you know to read this book!"

Schuler Books and Music (Okemos, MI)

"I was swept away by the The Story of Beautiful Girl -- the story of three lives that intersect only briefly, but are connected in an unbelievable way through the long years of each life. These lives are all tragic, yet triumphant, and vividly described against the backdrop of a changing, awakening society. And if a time when few books seem to end well, the last chapter of this book made me smile."

Tattered Cover (Denver, CO)

"Occasionally you open a book and continue to read because you just cannot put it down! That was my experience with The Story of Beautiful Girl. If you recall the state institutions you'll find this book fascinating."

Emery Pratt (Owosso, MI)

"The story of Lynnie and Homan extends over four decades and Rachel Simon touches the heart of the reader through the entire period. The mentally disabled girl and deaf man struggle against a society that brutally institutionalizes them but through their own perseverance and the help of a courageous retired teacher manage to triumph in the end. This is a stirring account of what is good and possible in the human spirit."

Nicola's Books (Ann Arbor, MI)

"Rachel Simon's intelligent and insightful glimpse into the world of the differently-abled and the gifts that can be found in their worlds is deftly brought to life in her novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl."

Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is an elegantly written and beautifully descriptive novel. It opened my eyes to the world of institutions. Simon has captured a bygone time and subculture of our society in a way that will stay with you for a long time. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking, this is a novel that I will share with friends and family for years to come."

Boulder Bookstore (Boulder, CO)

"I truly enjoyed this book and had to keep getting back to it to find out what happened to Lynnie. As a retired teacher of the hearing impaired, I found Homan's story realistic. Rachel Simon explained the different language systems Homan employed before learning a sign language which made communication possible. The Story of Beautiful Girl makes you cheer for the "underdogs" and does not disappoint."

Little Read Book (Wauwatosa, WI)

"In The Story of Beautiful, Rachel Simon gives voice to two unforgettable characters who, due to their disabilities, have no actual voice of their own but who remain in the reader's imagination long after the book has been put down. A generous compelling read."

Mrs. Dalloway's (Berkeley, CA)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is a brilliant, yet heart wrenching novel that will affect every reader to the core. It is a story of the imperfect and unwanted misfits of society, sent away to be forgotten. Unacknowledged, robbed of their dignity, freedoms, and even of their human existence, they are subjected to the exploitation and cruelty housed within their small contained world, yet still harbor hopes and dreams for their lives."

Chester County Book & Music Company (West Chester, PA)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is a true get-lost-in-a-story book. A story filled with wonder and love and hope, weaving through the lives of our unlikely heroes, even during the darkest and most horrible of times."

Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park, WA)

"A remarkably well constructed novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl is equal parts engrossing historical narrative and an examination of love in many of its different forms. The love between man and woman, between mother and child, love across time and distance, etc. Rachel's previous work and life's experience breathes such life and realism into these characters that I found myself moving deeper into her world than I had initially expected."

Joseph-Beth (Cincinnati, OH)

"The Story of a Beautiful Girl is a heart wrenching portrayal of what families used to do when faced with a disabled child, whether mental or physical, put them away and pretend they do not exist. Here in her novel full of pathos, Simon shows us what love, forgiveness and redemption can do for our souls."

Bank Square Books (Mystic, CT)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl had my full attention from the first chapter. The characters immediately gained my sympathy, and I read the novel quickly, hoping for the unlikely reunification of Lynnie, Homan, and Julia throughout. Rachel Simon writes with great sensitivity about what it might be like in our not so distant past to have a disability, to be misunderstood, to be surrendered by your family to an institution, to be forgotten, and yet to persevere and reach for real life. If Rachel Simon meant to give voice to the unseen silent lives of individuals placed historically in mental asylums, she has here been successful."

Northshire Bookstore (Manchester Center, VT)

"Rachel Simon has put together a tightly woven little tale that came directly from her big & emotional heart. It doesn't compare well with The Help or The Room because it's not running with those wolves, but more alongside The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Winter's Bone: two novels that cut through to the chase and excel in the raw."

Powell's Books (Portland, OR)

"The Story of Beautiful Girl is a rewarding book to have read. Rachel Simon is an incredible storyteller, and she puts her gifts to use here. It is a great read on multiple levels: as a story well told, which independent of anything else is the most important part of any great book. It also is an accurate and unsparing look at the attitudes and practices of the time and place it portrays. And that, I think, is its greatest accomplishment. It is an honest look at the past, an accomplishment which is all too rare today."

Green Apple Books (San Francisco, CA)

"I tore through this novel, picking it up at every spare moment, but the issues it brought to mind stuck with me long after I put it down. A cast of diverse and fascinating characters exhibit the shift in America's attitude toward the rights of people with disabilities over a 40-year period, from the moment a widow decides to care for a stranger's child in 1968 to that child's adulthood and discovery of her past. An excellent book group selection, I wanted to pass it on right away so I could discuss it with friends."

Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park, WA)

"The Story Of Beautiful Girl introduces us to characters a reader can love and cheer for. Lynnie and Homan are two young lovers who meet at an institution for the disabled. As they plot their escape from the facility, their devotion to each other becomes insurmountable. Lynnie secretly gives birth to a little girl, Julia, and leaves her with a retired schoolteacher, Martha. For the rest of her life, Martha raises for Julia as though she were her own child. With Martha's respect and devotion, this novel restored my faith in humankind. Filled with many interesting points for discussion, Simon's tale makes for a great book group selection."

The Book Cellar (Chicago, IL)

"What a gorgeously told novel of hope, love, and the tenacity of the human spirit overcoming the blight of 'Institutions' on our collective American conscious. Rachel's characters are rich, growing in strength throughout the course of the novel and woven together for a great read while telling a story that needed to be told – and told so well. Thank you, Rachel!"

HearthFire Books of Evergreen (Evergreen, CO)


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