Local family helps others understand autism through new books

From left standing: Susanna and Joan Moses. Seated: Monica Moses. (submitted photo)
Joshua Nielsen
Review staff

Three generations of women in New Brighton’s Moses family have collaborated to produce two recently published books.

Joan Quinn Moses released her first book “Roseville Girl” and her daughter Susanna Moses penned a children’s book titled “Monica’s Silent World,” named after and illustrated by her daughter Monica. Both books made their official debut following a book launch and signing event that took place in Maple Grove in October.

“Monica’s Silent World”

“Monica’s Silent World” is the first in a series of children’s books Susanna is writing for readers interested in learning about people with autism and related disabilities.  

Susanna says Monica, 17, was a neuro-typical child until she was 20 months old. In the spring of 1998, Monica suddenly lost her ability to respond vocally. She also lost motor skills and could not make eye contact with others.

“I was told by a speech therapist she would never speak again. I was floored and started crying,” she recalls.

Monica was initially diagnosed with Global Regression Disorder because of her severe symptoms, but was later given the diagnosis of severe autism. Her mother says doctors originally told her to put her young daughter in a group home with hope that she could get the therapy she needed. Susanna refused and set out on a quest to learn as much about autism and therapies as possible so she could effectively care for Monica.

Then about two weeks before Monica turned 5 a glimmer of hope appeared when she spoke her first words since she was a toddler: “I want something to drink.”

“When I heard her speak again I had that spark of hope and I really started to encourage her to speak” Susanna says. Her mother says between the ages of five and six Monica slowly became verbal again. Susanna sold her businesses and devoted herself  to caring for her child. Susanna is also an advocate for people with autism and related disabilities. She speaks at schools about autism and is hopeful that her first book will help other families like hers.

“Monica’s Silent World” is a book for adults to read to children and it lays the groundwork for the next books in the series that children can read themselves,” Susanna explains.

Susanna wrote the book in 2001 when Monica was still non-verbal. The story provides a glimpse of what it’s like to be a young child with autism through the eyes of 5-year-old Monica. The book has dozens of colorful illustrations that Monica recently drew free hand with colored pencils that show the world as she saw it.

“I love drawing what I see in my mind,” Monica says. She added that each illustration in “Monica’s Silent World” took several hours to complete.

Her mother says Monica was frustrated with not being able to draw when she was six or seven, and she begged her to teach her. Susanna took her on several trips to the library where the eager learner checked out every book she could find on animation, cartooning and drawing. She has been drawing ever since, and Susanna says her daughter has several comics, games and cartoons for publication in the works. She is currently helping her 5-year-old sister Sophia illustrate a children’s book series about a young bee named Nectar, who was born without a stinger. The books are meant to teach children to respect each other’s differences and to not bully someone who they perceive as being different.

Monica is currently enrolled in an online academy in a college bound high school program and plans to pursue a career as a children’s book illustrator, animator and gaming and web designer.

“Roseville Girl”

Monica’s grandmother Joan Quinn Moses’ book “Roseville Girl” is a collection of autobiographical stories of her Roseville upbringing in the 1950s.

Her father Bert Quinn Moses was a successful businessman, who the author says is credited for the invention of the pneumatic screen door closer, which is still used on screen doors today. Her creative and crafty mother Berneice Quinn, an expert seamstress, gained national attention when she finally earned her high school diploma at the age of 92.

Moses enjoyed a rather privileged childhood and she recounts several amusing, and at times peculiar experiences during her Roseville upbringing. The family, for example, took many vacations together -- from summer trips to the family cabin on Lake Vermillion to a road trip to Tampico Mexico, a cruise to pre-Castro Cuba and a family trip to Florida that yielded a baby alligator the family kept as a pet named Elvis.

The book has personal accounts ranging from Moses’ early school days at Brimhall Elementary School, memories of driving her mother’s 52’ Buick convertible to local drive-in theaters at 15, and favorite moments from St. Paul’s Winter Carnival. In addition to “Roseville Girl,” the author is working on a book about her mother’s St. Paul upbringing: “Little Shicken and the Boubecks,” and “Starfish Saga,” a book, which her publicist says are tales of hope for families with special needs such as Moses.’

She is also working on a yet to be titled book of inspirational poems.

“My mother always said that you should never stop learning. I live by that,” Moses says.

Moses has taught creative writing courses and has worked as a paraprofessional in special education settings in public elementary schools. For over 55 years she has written poetry, song parodies and has published many articles in newspapers for public schools and in Daughters of the American Revolution and Maronite magazines. Copies of “Roseville Girl” are available for purchase online at www.joanmoses.com. Copies of “Monica’s Silent World” can also be purchased online at www.susannamoses.com.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

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