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How to Be A Sister by Eileen Garvin

April 8, 2010

“Throughout the course of my life, I’ve only been certain of two things: I am the youngest of five children, and I am my sister Margaret’s older sister. Even though she was born three years earlier than I, I was the caretaker, the dependable one, and as far as I can see, always will be.”

So begins How to Be A Sister: A Love Story With a Twist
of Autism
(The Experiment, April 2010), Eileen Garvin’s candid memoir about her lifelong endeavor to forge a meaningful relationship with her severely autistic sister, Margaret. When Eileen moves back to the Pacific Northwest after several years in New Mexico, she must grapple with a question that has dogged her since birth: What is she going to do about Margaret? How can she have a relationship with someone who can’t drive, send email, or telephone? What role will Eileen play in Margaret’s life as their parents age, and after they die? Will she remain in Margaret’s life, or walk away?

“There is nothing gentle or elegiac about the tone of Eileen Garvin’s How to Be a Sister…her fierce, protective love for Margaret, whom she brings to stinging life on the page, gives this book real power.”
Washington Post

“A marvelous, harrowing, life-affirming book. In looking to forge a meaningful relationship with her severely autistic sister, Eileen Garvin finds a simpler way of being in, and extending, every moment. Isn’t that what we’re all after? I loved this book. And boy, can she write!”
—Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life: A Memoir

How to Be A Sister is now available at Barnes & Noble,, and of course, at your local indie bookseller. Visit the book’s official web site for up-to-date information about upcoming events & readings, resources for adult siblings and families caring for autistic loved ones, and to see candid pictures of Eileen and Margaret.

Eileen has written about autism in The Oregonian and Autism Advocate. She writes for newspapers, magazines, and Web sites and blogs at Psychology Today about autism in life, family, and culture from a sibling’s-eye view.

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