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My Thirteenth Winter, A Book Review

Deanne Shields

My Thirteenth Winter

By Samatha Abeel

Reviewed by Deanne Shields

“Sometimes I try to go back and remember the me before I was ever diagnosed with a learning disability, back before I ever knew I was different, back to the time when I was just me, without any labels, when I thought the way I saw the world was how everyone saw it.”

This is how we begin our journey into the experiences of Samantha Abeel, and her memoir, My Thirteenth Winter. Many years ago I heard Samantha Abeel speak at the Learning Disabilities Association of America’s annual conference in Chicago. Here was an intelligent, college educated woman, who could not tell time or understand money. This was my first introduction to the struggles of Dyscalculia. As I read this memoir, I found myself underlining passages that I could relate to. Even though she has the specific learning disability of Dyscalculia, her experiences are similar to those who experience dyslexia and other learning disabilities. The description of her mother’s efforts to get her daughter the services she needed, and teachers who meant well but didn’t understand what a learning disability was, are all relatable to parents and teachers of students with learning disabilities. One would think that things would have changed dramatically since this book was published in 2003 but unfortunately, many of the situations in this book, continue to be experienced by parents and children today. While she couldn’t understand math concepts, she was gifted and a talented writer and this made it even more difficult for her learning disability to be identified. I learned from her experiences the importance of self advocacy, accepting her learning disability and using accommodations to be successful in college.

Samantha says that, “over the years I have also come to view my learning disability as a rather strange and unusual gift. I believe it has allowed me to develop strengths I might not have otherwise developed,....observation skills,...sense of awareness,....power of persistence, disability has also taught me the rewards of reaching out for help.” I would highly recommend this book to parents, teachers, and also teens with learning disabilities.


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