Free as a Bird
Title: Free as a Bird
Author: Gina McMurchy-Barber
Born with Down syndrome, Ruby Jean Sharp lives at a time when being a developmentally disabled person usually meant growing up behind locked doors. When Ruby Jean’s loving grandmother dies, she is taken to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. It is here that Ruby Jean learns to survive isolation, boredom, and every kind of abuse.
Born with Down syndrome, Ruby Jean Sharp comes from a time when being a developmentally disabled person could mean growing up behind locked doors and barred windows and being called names like “retard” and “moron”. When Ruby Jean’s caregiver and loving grandmother dies, her mother takes her to Woodlands School in New Westminster, British Columbia, and rarely visits.
As Ruby Jean herself says: “Can’t say why they called it a school—a school’s a place you go for learnin an then after you get to go home. I never learnt much bout ledders and numbers, an I sure never got to go home.”
It’s here in an institution that opened in 1878 and was originally called the Provincial Lunatic Asylum that Ruby Jean learns to survive isolation, boredom, and every kind of abuse. Just when she can hardly remember if she’s ever been happy, she learns a lesson about patience and perseverance from an old crow.